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Sleep and Teens

Sleep hygiene is important for mental health at every age. Teenager especially need to practice good sleep habits to support their growing bodies and minds. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital says that most teenagers need around nine hours of sleep per night.

During those hours when we are at rest, our bodies are very busy. The brain stores new information during sleep and gets rid of waste. Nerve cells communicate with each other and reorganize to support healthy brain function. The body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases important molecules like hormones and proteins.

Getting good sleep is easier said than done. When someone consistently gets too little quality sleep, he or she could experience a range of symptoms. First, the person will be fatigued; this may seem obvious, but fatigue can stop us from living up to our responsibilities and enjoying life to the fullest. The same is true for irritability and mood changes, which are also symptoms. A lack of sleep also causes challenges with memory and focus, which can make school needlessly harder for your child.

In addition, sleep deprivation affects our hormones in ways that can lead to weight gain and weakens our body’s natural immune system protections against disease. Those nine hours of sleep teenagers need are time well spent!

On the rare occasion a teenager is sleeping far more than nine hours per night, or much more than his or her usual sleep schedule, hormonal issues caused by the thyroid may be at play. Sleeping too much is also a sign of depression and sleep disorders.

You can help set your teenager up for success by encouraging healthy sleep habits.

- First, establish a routine. Routines allow the body to know what to expect, and to anticipate when it needs to “power up” for the day and “power down” to rest. If we go to bed at 9pm one night and 2am the next, the body isn’t sure what to expect and doesn’t learn when it’s supposed to start getting tired.

- Next, be sure to limit your teen’s caffeine intake before bed. Sodas, coffee, or even tea late in the day and at night can interfere with your child’s ability to fall asleep at night.

- Next, reduce cell phone use one hour before bed. The reasons for this are twofold: Mental stimulation before bed can make it harder to fall asleep, and the light from electronic devices may make it harder for the body to produce a hormone called melatonin that makes us sleepy at night.

- Try white noise or music. Some people find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep if they are hearing the sound of rain, other nature sounds, or white noise. There are devices that create these sounds, but one of the easiest ways to try this out is to download a sleep sounds app to your smartphone.

The sooner you establish a healthy sleep schedule for your teenager, the sooner your teen’s body will get the rest it needs to repair itself and grow. Even when it’s not possible for your child to sleep for nine hours at night, healthy practices like limiting caffeine consumption and screen time will help him or her get quality rest for a better tomorrow.


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