Your teenager may not be as “lazy” as you give them credit for! It may be a matter of really working together to set them up for sleep success.
Somewhere between ages 12-19, your sweet little child flips a switch, and it can feel like you have a new person living with you. They are going through so many phases of development including hormonal, emotional, social and physical changes… it’s no wonder it can feel foreign for not only you but for them too! Even with all these changes, sleep continues to be the least understood, and one of the most impactful phases of development for our adolescent population.
It’s no surprise that sleep impacts us all as we develop, but our teenagers happen to have social norms working against them the most. Society doesn’t conform to the minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep a night they need because schools, friends, and extracurricular activities are expecting too much out of them. Whether it’s their friends who are wanting them to play video games late into the night, mindlessly scrolling on social media exposing themselves to more issues than just sleep, or an early morning practice or bus ride before dawn… they’re all equally as impactful on your teen.
www.startschoollater.net describes the problem like this: “Too-early school start times are a national public health concern with consequences impacting children, families, and the community at large. Besides forcing many children to walk and drive to school in pre-dawn darkness, these hours are creating a generation deprived of the sleep that growing brains and bodies require.”
What happens around this age is there is a shift in their circadian rhythm by about 2-3 hours! This can mean that they aren’t feeling tired until closer to 11pm-1am (or even later with chronic exposure to blue light) and still needing to wake up for school before the sunrise to be on time. All of this resulting in less than the required minimum of 8.5 hours that they need to grow and develop at this major transitional time in their life. Not only are they finding a newfound independence, but they are also learning how to drive, have bigger responsibilities, all while getting less sleep than they’ve quite possibly ever had before.
The research couldn’t be clearer, and underestimating the impact their sleep plays in various roles of development could be the very thing hindering teens from going through these changes with ease.
How to Set Your Teen Up for Sleep Success:
- Digital curfew. We really need at a very minimum, no screens within the hour before bed. A 2017 study published in the journal of child development found that using smartphones late at night, especially for social media, is directly linked to depression, poor coping skills, and reduced self esteem in teens. Having a designated time each night when all devices are turned off and plugged in, can be a great first step in not only reducing their blue light exposure, but also aiding in their mental health!
- Encouraging a bedtime around the same time each night within 30 minutes or so. One of the biggest takeaways for this, is it can ensure they are getting an adequate growth hormone release during the first few hours of sleep. If not, they can miss the window for growth hormone release which can be detrimental for their health. Brain and hormone circuits of the brain and body are timelier than we give them credit for.
- Lastly, encouraging a relaxing wind down routine for the day can help set them up for a restful night of sleep. What we do in the last 60 minutes of our day matters!
Teenagers are still children, and as their parents, ensuring that they are getting the adequate amounts of sleep is a life skill they need to learn before heading out into the “real” world!