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Blog Feature

By: Kevin Asp on June 23rd, 2016

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10 Proven Tips To Make Your Sleep Deprived Teen Sleep Better

Sleep Medicine

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Sleep has become the thing that's frequently missing in teenagers' lives!

Few Americans these days get the hours of sleep optimal for their age, but experts agree that teenagers are more likely to fall short than anyone else.

Researchers in general, recommend that adolescents need between 9 and 9 ½ hours of sleep. But according to a study from 2003 most teens don't get enough shut eye. 

Without a doubt, the plenthora of backlit personal electronics hasn't been helping teens get better sleep either. A study in Fairfax, Va., found that only 6 percent of children in the 10th grade and only 3 percent in the 12th grade get the recommended amount of sleep. Two in three teens were found to be severely sleep-deprived, losing two or more hours of sleep every night.

The impact of sleep deprivation (as we saw in an infographic we posted previously) on the well-being of adolescents — on their health and academic potential has been profound. In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement urging schools to delay start times of middle schoolers and high school students. In addition the statement said, "Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance."

So how do you prevent your teens from being sleep deprived? Here are 10 effective tips to getting your sleep deprived teen to sleep better.

1. Make your teen's bedroom a quiet place

Make sure they turn off their computer before they get in bed. Also make sure to urge your teen to shut off all headphones and music electronics. Contrary to what they believe, heavy metal isn't helping them get quality sleep. If your house is loud at night recommend earplugs for your teen.

2. Recommend a hot soak before bed

Try to keep your teen's room cool (about 68 F). A study found that sleep occurs faster when the body cools down. It's common for us to wake up when the room gets hotter.

3. Consider blacking out their windows at night

Advise your teen to keep their door shut when they go to bed. Turn their clock to face the wall so they don't make it a habit to check the time while they're in bed. You can also buy them a lightweight and comfortable sleep mask that prevents light entry.

4. Get them in the habit of bringing light in when they wake

Tell your teen to open the shades or turn on the lights when they wake. The early light of the day helps them "reset" their brain to push their bedtime to an earlier hour.

5. Get your teen to "chill out" before bedtime

If your teen is frequently stressed out, recommend that they do yoga or meditation to help them ease their racing thoughts. Going to bed worried decreases the quality of their sleep, so recommend relaxation techniques for your teen. If they have a problem relaxing, then the issue should be checked out by a doctor.

6. If they're sick, put them to bed

Make sure to put teens in bed early when they're ill. Not only is it the fastest way to recover, but also helps  teens better prepare for the next day of school.

7. Consider giving them high-carb snacks if they have trouble falling asleep

In the book Smart Cookies Don’t Get Stale, dietitians Catherine Christie, PhD, and Susan Mitchell, PhD, recommend that eating high-carb snacks before bed does the trick. These snacks make you warm and sleepy. Consider trying these snacks out: pretzels, cereal, graham crackers, fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice, vanilla wafers, saltines, popcorn, or toast with jam or jelly.

8. How about a night scent?

Christie and Mitchell also recommend aromatherapy to boost sleep. Orange blossom, marjoram, chamomile, and lavender scents are some examples of soothing smells for bedtime. 

9. Set rules of no caffeine a couple of hours before bedtime

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes teens forget that caffeine can be hidden in some of their favorite sodas and snacks. Make sure to get your teen into the habit of monitoring caffeine intake throughout the day. If they're craving something hot to drink, then recommend a warm cup of herbal tea. One or two strong cups of tea can help them mellow out.

10. Are there other issues that keep your teen up at night?

If you tried almost everything on this list and still can't seem to get your sleep deprived teen to develop a healthy sleep habit, then it's worth exploring what the underlying causes are. If they are taking medications, ask their doctor if their medication might be interfering with their sleep.

Sleep technologists, are there other tips that you would recommend for your teenage patients?

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