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How to help your sleep-deprived teen get some rest

While we expect our teens to be sleepy and grumpy, is there more to it? Reports suggest the majority of our teens are sleep deprived - how can we help them get a good night’s sleep?

Sleepy teenagers are a common stereotype. Most parents have to drag their grumpy teenagers out of bed in the morning at some point. Isn’t it all part of growing up?

Teenage sleep deprevationNot necessarily. Some research suggests that up to 70% of teenagers are sleep deprived. Some of this is partly biological; a teenage biological clock shifts tiredness back by a couple of hours, resulting in teens going to sleep later. However, this shift doesn’t mean they need less sleep. In fact, it’s the opposite - your teen needs nine hours sleep on average.

There is also research to suggest that troubled sleep might be linked to anxiety and depression. In some instances, teens are being misdiagnosed as having mood disorders when the real problem is erratic sleep patterns.

It can be difficult to convince teens that they need to go to sleep - it’s not appealing to them when there is so much going on in their lives. So how can you help your sleep-deprived teen?

Look for signs
If you think sleep deprivation could be a problem for your teen, look for some of these signs:
  • Taking a long time to fall asleep
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Lacking in concentration and focus
  • Mood swings
  • Waking up multiple times a night resulting in broken sleep
  • Struggling to wake up
  • Worries around sleeping and falling asleep

If you recognise any of the above signs in your teen, think about how you can help them to achieve a better night’s sleep.

A comfortable place to rest is something we all need for a good sleep. Work with your teen to decorate their room in their style. Ask them what kind of bed covers they would like or what colour paint on the walls, what colour curtains etc.

As teens get older, they have full social lives and a heavy workload, all contributing to a busy mind. Organisation and routine become essential for managing this new way of life. Try incorporating some of the following into their weekly routine.
  • Try regular sleeping times especially during the school week
  • Encourage an early Sunday night - a late one means they’ll be drowsy for the start of the school week
  • Let them sleep at the weekend, but only within two hours of the usual week time
  • Encourage a regular restful activity like reading or meditation before going to sleep
  • Choose a relaxing bedtime routine; for example, a bath and a hot milky drink before bed
It’s also a good idea to go through their weekly schedule together to see how busy it is and trim activities where possible.

Increasingly, teens are looking at screens until late into the night. It’s important to try and restrict screen time, especially before bedtime. It contributes to a busy mind, and too much blue light disrupts the body's production of melatonin - the brain chemical responsible for sleep.
As an alternative to screens, try some meditation techniques or other tools to quiet your teens buzzing brain before sleep. You can find some useful tips on this link from the organisation Headspace.

It might be a long process to change your teens sleeping habits, but it’s worth it; a good regular sleep will help improve their overall health, wellbeing and concentration.

- Sleep Health Foundation: SleepShack
- SBS: The dangers of sleep deprivation in teenagers – and the solutions
- Teenagers and Sleep

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Disclaimer: This article does not give professional advice.  The contents constitute general information of a summary nature of interest and relevance at the time of publication. You should not rely on the contents as professional advice but should seek, formal advice in particular matters relevant to your particular situation

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