Improving Sleep for Adolescents

A good night’s sleep has many physical and psychological benefits. Sleep helps to maintain a healthy and balanced body and a strong immune system. It also regulates energy levels. Interestingly research suggests that sleep helps to solidify new memories and skills, so it is particularly important when considering performance at school. A lack of sleep can impact on behaviour, emotions and ability to focus in a negative way.

Adolescents often struggle with maintaining regular and quality sleep. Sure, we expect a bit of fluctuation in sleep routines due to socialising, studying and juggling extra-curricular activities, but there are some ways we can support young people to improve in this area.  Consider these tips for strengthening your adolescent’s sleep behaviours.

 

  • Support them to establish their own bedtime routine
    • Encourage going to bed and waking up at the same time each day-especially on weekdays
    • Suggest allowing between 30 minutes and 1 hour of ‘wind-down’ time before bed. This should include low energy activities. Do something calming each night. Have a herbal tea and sit on the lounge for a while to relax, or maybe listen to some slow music
  • Make sure the room is conducive to good sleep
    • Any electronics in the room should be minimal-and those that are in the room should be switched off 30 minutes to an hour before bed
    • Smart Phones or any other devices with a blue back-light should be avoided as this stimulates the brain, interferes with the release of our sleep hormone melatonin, and will make it difficult to sleep. Try turning these devices off or switching to ‘sleep mode’-where the blue backlight is turned off or dimmed
  • Exercising regularly is great for sleep
    • Exercising is a great way to increase overall sleep time(about three times per week for half an hour-making sure you are working hard, for example running rather than walking).Try to avoid exercising directly before bed. The increase in body temperature and the stimulation from the physical exertion (or the competition) can make it hard to relax
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and food before bed
    • Lots of caffeine makes it hard to sleep and can make us wake up during the night. Have your last coffee or energy drink for the day before 4pm, or switch to decaf or herbal tea after 4pm.
  • Try to avoid taking naps during the day
    • This can throw out your rhythms and makes it harder to get to sleep at night
  • Have a warm shower
    • Having a warm shower or bath 1 hour before bed helps to settle your body and makes it easier to sleep
  • Don’t watch the clock!
    • Worrying about the time will make you more stressed and make it harder to sleep. It is best to move any alarm clocks away from where you can see them if you are tempted to check at night
  • Stick to a routine
    • Having a set routine during the day also helps with sleep- and with managing day to day stress
  • Have trouble waking up?
    • If you have problems getting out of bed-move your alarm from next to your bed to the other side of the room. When your alarm goes off you will need to get out of bed in order to turn it off
  • Leave the problem solving until morning
    • Try not to work on life’s problems in your head while trying to sleep. It is a great way to increase your anxiety and keep sleep at bay
    • Make a list of things to be completed the next day before going to bed. Redirect your attention to it in the morning
  • For our young adults, avoid alcohol before bed
    • Alcohol before bed makes us sleep easier in the beginning but can make us wake up multiple times through the night. For a quality sleep, it is best to avoid alcohol from about 4pm

Sleep can be a factor in a number of mood and behavioural problems experienced in adolescence. At Sydney Children’s Practice we are always happy to help. Contact us for an appointment on 9564 3758.