[This is a guest post from Tuck Sleep. This is not an endorsement or a paid placement, but merely beneficial parenting content.]
Parents of teens know it can be tough to get them to sleep on time at night. In fact, although teens need at least eight hours of sleep per night, two out of three U.S. high school students sleep less than eight hours on school nights.
A lack of sleep can have serious consequences. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to perform poorly in school, engage in unhealthy risk behaviors, not get enough physical activity, suffer from depressive symptoms, and be overweight.
Factors Contributing to Poor Sleep in Teens
The blame for not getting to sleep on time doesn’t rest solely on teens’ behavior, however. Busy schedules and active social lives can put pressure on sleep time. School schedules, in particular, can make it difficult for teens to get enough sleep, as five out of six U.S. middle and high schools start the day before 8:30 a.m.
Another major factor influencing poor sleep in teens is a circadian rhythm shift in puberty. Before puberty, teens may feel sleepy around 8 to 9 p.m., with plenty of time to sleep before school starts. After puberty begins, teens start to feel sleepy around 10 to 11 p.m. This sleep phase delay makes it difficult to get to bed on time so they’ll have enough sleep before school starts.
Behavior may exacerbate this sleep shift change. Some teens may stay up late texting with friends, working on homework, or engaging in hobbies, which can cut into sleep time.
Many teens are worn out at the end of the school week. Often, they sleep in late on the weekends to catch up on missed sleep. However, this only makes it more difficult to fall asleep at the right time during the week.
How Parents Can Support Healthy Sleep
Support a healthy sleep schedule. Encourage your teen to consider which activities are essential or not during the school week. Too many events can put pressure on homework time and sleep, so it may be necessary to cut back. Make rest a priority and schedule activities around sleep, not the other way around.
Encourage good sleep hygiene. Help your teen establish a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Staying consistent each night can make it easier to settle down and get to sleep, as their bodies know what to expect.
Discourage sleep pitfalls. Some activities can make it more difficult to sleep. Late night screen time, heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can all interfere with good sleep. Encourage your teen to stop screen time at least an hour before bed and avoid consuming foods that can interfere with sleep in the evening.
Create a healthy sleep environment. Make sure your teen has a healthy place to sleep. A memory foam mattress or mattress topper can help ease teens to sleep. Their bedroom should be cool, quiet, dark, and comfortable. Use blackout curtains, white noise, and a fan if needed.