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Sleepy Teens? Let’s Help Them Shift & Thrive!

Hello, PATH Parents!

Quality sleep should be one of those “let’s go there” areas for parents when we notice that our teens are not getting the hours of sleep they truly need. Not only do sleepy teens not excel academically, they are often not the most fun to be around (like most of us when we are sleep-deprived)! Our challenge as parents is to help our teens shift their thinking about sleep, to see its value and adjust habits in order to thrive. 

The Johns Hopkins Medicine website has MANY articles on the importance of quality sleep, including one I’d like to highlight: Teenagers and Sleep: How Much Sleep is Enough? 

John Hopkins Medicine asserts that:

  1. Teens require 9 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night. (This is more than younger children due to teens’ developing brains and physical growth spurts.)

  2. Proper sleep protects teens from consequences like depression and drug use. (Yes, please!)

The article recommends quite a few habits to adjust, but let’s look at seven of them. Our teens should:

  1. Establish a regular sleep schedule that limits sleeping in
    1. Our bodies benefit from a regular bedtime, which means that when our teens are sleep-deprived, it is actually better for them to take a 45-minute nap before dinner than to sleep in. Why? Sleeping in can actually throw off the body’s proper sleep cycle. Who knew? For years, this mama felt that any extra sleep my teens gained was beneficial for “catching up,” no matter when it was experienced. Apparently, it matters!

  2. Exercise regularly
    1. Exercise is a friend for a strong body and a good night’s sleep!

  3. Limit caffeine in the evenings
    1. Yes, a soda or two might help your student focus and stay awake to finish the history project due online by 10 PM, but going to bed at 11 PM then becomes the impossible dream! Skipping caffeine after dinner is the wisest.

  4. Have breakfast outside or by a window
    1. Why? The bright sunshine helps to regulate your teen’s biological clock. That means getting up in the morning and drifting off to sleep at night both become easier. What a simple way to make life easier for our teens!

  5. Earn car privileges by choosing a good night’s sleep
    1. Sleep deprivation and teen auto accidents are linked, so let your teen only drive when he or she gets enough hours of sleep to do so responsibly.

  6. Make their bedrooms a tech-free zone (at least once the sun goes down)
    1. The blue light from devices interferes with the body’s proper production of melatonin (the hormone that induces sleep). Why allow something that genuinely and consistently makes falling asleep harder for your teen? You might get the BUT MOM! I have HOMEWORK to do at night! (in-between Insta reels and YouTube shorts, most likely). For evening studies, I recommend a quality pair of blue block glasses. Your teens may hate them at first, but hopefully, consistent good nights of sleep will win them over eventually.

  7. See a doctor if these adjusted habits do not bring the benefits anticipated
    1. If the benefits from healthy habits seem minimal, perhaps your teen should be screened for a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia. Better to know and get help for your teen than to remain in uncertainty and battle the academic or behavioral challenges that are caused by being sleep or oxygen-deprived.

Hope these tips help your teen experience better sleep (which will bring more health and peace to your home, no doubt causing YOU as the parent to sleep better at night, too)!

In the parenting journey with you,

Lisa Raftery