Teens And Sleep
When it comes to teenagers, a love of late nights and an allergy to early mornings are about as common as those sulky demands for lifts.
But how do you know if their eccentric bedtime habits are just typical teen behaviour, or a sign of sleep problems?
Our sleep for teens guide explains what to look out for and how you can help teens not getting enough sleep to reset their routine.
What causes sleep problems in teens?
If, like one in five parents in our sleep survey, you think your teen’s bedtime smartphone session is keeping them up at night, you might be right.
Handheld devices use LED screens, which emit blue light. This stops the production of melatonin – the hormone that makes us fall asleep. With our survey revealing that almost a quarter of children use phones before bed, it’s no wonder they’re finding it hard to drop off.
Teens are at an important stage of their growth and development and need more sleep than adults. So any shut-eye they lose in the evening needs to be made up elsewhere – you guessed it, with that dreaded morning lie-in. That’s why teenagers sometimes have a reputation for being lazy.
My teen’s not sleeping – what can I do?
Slammed doors, arguments over homework – parenting a teenager is fraught with worry. But lack of sleep doesn’t have to be one of them. Our four sleep tips for teens can help.
1. Talk to your teen
Talk to your teen about anything they’re stressing about. You might be able to find a solution to their problems together, which could help them sleep better.
Casually mention the sleep-preventing properties of bedtime screen use, too – they may not have a clue. We spoke to a group of teenagers and found out that none of them knew about blue light and were shocked to hear about its effect on sleep.
By explaining the impact of evening gadget use to your child, they might think twice about playing that extra game at bedtime.
2. Lead by example
If your teen’s not getting enough sleep, practice what you preach and stop fiddling with your own phone before you go to bed. Do something together as a family an hour before bedtime instead to help you all wind down.
Top tip: Time to get sneaky! To stop your teen logging on after dark, set your Wi-Fi to turn off at the same time each night.
3. Promote the benefits of good sleep
Most of the teens we spoke to said they’d get more serious about sleep if a teacher told them it was affecting their school work.
Even if it’s not bad enough for the school to notice, now’s the time to gently remind your teenager the importance of sleep – before you get the dreaded note home from school.
As our sleep expert Dr Guy Meadows explains, the bulk of brain development happens before we reach 19 to 21 years old. Without sleep, the brain can’t grow physically, emotionally or academically – something that’s very important in the run-up to exams. Mention this to your kids and it might be just the kick-start they need to start prioritising their shut-eye.
4. Think about their bedroom
If they haven’t got a black-out blind, put one up, and consider turning down the radiator in their room – the best environment for sleep is cool and dark.
Top tip: Buy them an alarm clock. Most teens we spoke to use the alarm on their phones to wake them up – far too tempting if it’s within arm’s reach in the night!
How much sleep do teenagers need?.
Teenagers need more sleep than adults because they’re still growing and developing – both physically and mentally.
Between 8.5 and 9 hours is the level of recommended sleep for teenagers. If your child struggles to get up in the morning, encourage them to bring their bedtime forward until it’s early enough that they can wake on time, without feeling tired throughout the day.
Symptoms of insomnia in teenagers can be similar to those in adults. For more information, read our guide on what insomnia is and how to deal with it.