How to Help Your Sleep-Deprived Teen

teen sleep deprivationAs we explained in our last post, teen sleep deprivation can cause or exacerbate serious mental health issues. (That’s to say nothing of the impact it has on academic functioning, body weight, substance use and driving ability). Helping your tween or teen develop healthy sleep hygiene practices can go a long way towards keeping your kid healthy and your household sane.

Good sleep hygiene is pretty simple stuff, but it’s not always easy to put into practice. This post, contains some tips for persuading your child to actually take action to reduce teen sleep deprivation.

  • Rearrange your pots and pans at 10am on Saturdays. Try to discourage your child from sleeping past 10am on the weekends. You can do this directly by rousing her yourself, but it’s much easier (and more fun) to simply make some noise to nudge her awake.
  • Take temptations into custody. Enforce a screen break at least 30 minutes before bed. (Two hours is recommended, but we know that won’t always be realistic). For some kids, this means you’ll have to confiscate game console controllers, tablets, cell phones and power cords. Remember that kids can be sneaky which means you’ll need to be sneakier. Hide the goods so that your teen can’t get them after you’ve gone to sleep. We know parents who have even put tempting technology in the household safe to keep them from “escaping”.
  • Let technology teach. While technology can work against healthy sleep hygiene, you can also use it to your advantage. Consider installing software that automatically dims the lighting on devices as nighttime approaches (f.lux is one example). Also, wearable fitness bands often come with sleep monitors that show how many hours of sleep you got and if the sleep was truly restful. Since many tweens and teens are suckers for anything tech, they may take more interest in the idea of sleep if it’s coming from a screen and not their parent.
  • Drop hints. Talk about how important sleep is and the consequences of teen sleep deprivation. Don’t lecture (they will only hear the first 30 seconds of what you said), but look for opportunities to mention it.
  • Teach time management. This should be an ongoing project for you and your child that ideally starts no later than middle school. When we learn to use our time productively, it’s easier to clock in enough hours for sleep. For tips on this, check out our post on how to teach our post on how to teach time management to your kids without being a nag.
  • Nurture the relationship. A tween or teen that feels stressed and alone is likely to have trouble sleeping. Maintaining a positive relationship with your child so that she feels comfortable coming to you when she is troubled can keep inner tensions from festering and stealing rest.
  • Cultivate a comfy sleep space. Check in with your tween or teen to make sure his bedroom is comfortable and relaxing. Consider the quality of pillows, mattresses, room temperature, amount of light and noise and the overall ambiance of the room. Aim for creating a space that feels soothing and safe.
  • Teach the art of sheep counting. Help your child identify thoughts to keep her mind busy while waiting to fall asleep. Some favorites include listing 10 things you are grateful for, counting backwards from 100 by 3s, designing your ideal tree house, and counting your inhalations and exhalations.

Car Thought (something to ponder as you shuttle your kids about): What is one thing you can do today to reduce sleep deprivation for your child?

Let us hear from you! What have you done to hep your tween and teen get good sleep?