The following suggestions can help your teenager meet sleep needs for their changing bodies.
Get adequate sleep. Research tells
us that teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep on average each night to be fully
alert during the day. This amount of sleep time is difficult for teens to get
due to their early school start time, their after school sport and social
activities, homework demands, and possibly even work schedules for older teens.
So it is not surprising that most teens are sleep deprived and often try to
catch up on missed sleep on the weekend. A better option for teens is to keep a
regular sleep-wake schedule on weekdays as well as on the weekends, not varying
the schedule by more than 1 hour.
Rejuvenate with a midday snooze. Naps are okay if your teen
wants or likes to take them. However, naps should be limited to no more
than 20-30 minutes and should be taken in the early afternoon only. Napping too
long or too late in the afternoon makes it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime.
Get regular exercise. Exercise, 30 to 60 minutes, at least
four times a week, will lead to better fitness and better sleep. The only caution about exercise is to not do it within 2-3 hours of bedtime, as this is a time when the body needs to be winding down for sleep.
Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine can disrupt sleep, so
consumption of caffeine-containing products should be avoided in the evening. Be aware that caffeine-containing products include ice-tea, some clear non-cola pops, energy drinks, and chocolates aside from the more obvious colas and coffee.
Don’t go to bed hungry. Make sure your teen doesn’t go to
bed hungry. Provide a light snack such as a glass of milk, a piece of fruit,
cereal and milk or crackers. Avoid feeding a heavy meal within 1 to 2 hours of
bedtime, as this can interfere with sleep. Helping your teen maintain a proper
diet will aid in his or her overall health. Have your teen eat plenty of fruits
and vegetables, whole grain cereals and breads, rice, pasta, fish and poultry.
Breakfast should not be skipped. Avoid fried foods and limit the intake of fats.
Don’t smoke and avoid alcohol. Nicotine is also a stimulant
and can disturb sleep. Every effort should be made not to smoke at all – for
overall health reasons – but if your teen does smoke, he or she should not smoke
within an hour or so of bedtime. Use of alcohol, sleeping pills, or other
over-the-counter sleep aids all may disrupt sleep. See your doctor if your teen
is using these products to help with sleep.
Include daily "Winding-down" time. Have your teen set aside
up to 1 hour of quiet time before bedtime every night. He or she should
use this time for calm and enjoyable activities, such as listening to
quiet music, reading a book, or functions that let the mind and body relax. TV
watching, computer gaming, exercising, or heavy studying should not be part of
quiet time. The last several minutes of quiet time activity may take place in
the room where your teen sleeps. The bed however, should be used only for
sleeping so that firm associations of bed and sleep can be built up in the mind.
Make the bedroom an inviting, relaxing environment. Your
teen’s bedroom should be quiet, comfortable (< 75°
F), and dark. A teen’s bedroom should be clean, uncluttered and relaxing. This
will ensure your teen a better night’s sleep and improved daytime performance.
Again, the bed itself should only be used for sleep– not as a place to read, study or play.
Maintain a regular wake up time. Your teen’s bed time and
wake up time should be about the same every day of the week, regardless if it is
a school day or not. A consistent wake up time sets the stage for the rest of
the day and allows adequate sleep pressure to build up by late evening to allow
for quicker sleep onset. It keeps your teen’s biological clock organized and
ensures he or she does not live as if "jet-lagged" all week long.
Make a doctor’s appointment. Make a doctor’s appointment for
your teen if he or she has difficulties falling asleep, snores, or tells you he
or she is excessively sleepy during the day.
Additional Sleep Information and Suggested Readings
Mindell, JA and Owens, JA. A Clinical Guide to Pediatric
Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems. Philadelphia, PA:
Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2003.
http://www.sleepeducation.com and other educational links on the
American Academy of Sleep Medicine website http://www.aasmnet.org.
The National Sleep Foundation at http://www.sleepfoundation.org.