Here’s a little sleep quiz:
1) Do you know the number of hours of sleep that teens need to function properly and for good health?
2) Do you know the number of hours of sleep most teens are actually getting?
3) Do you know why most teens are sleep deprived?
3) They have mobile devices/laptops/computers in their bedrooms overnight.
When parents bring teenagers to me for psychotherapy, one of the first things I ask about during the initial interview is the amount and quality of their sleep. I do this because I have learned that the majority of the teens I see are chronically sleep deprived, and this compromised state is wreaking havoc on their emotional stability, behaviour, patience, and ability to focus. Their relationships, school marks, and health are suffering. Toddlers aren’t the only ones who get cranky when tired!
Recent studies identified that teens are sleeping fewer hours as compared to 20 years ago, and showed that 60 percent of teens will keep their cellphones in the rooms and respond to a text a night. CBC Health Reporters spoke with Dr. Indra Narang of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and posted an informative article and video about the findings. Please click here to read the CBC interview with Dr Narang, and also look to the bottom left of the banner picture to watch the interview video.
What does this mean for parents? It is critical that we be the keepers of our teens’ sleep. Here are four suggestions to help your teen sleep better:
Sleep routines are not just for little ones. Having regular lights-out and get-up times (even on the weekend) helps create good sleep hygiene.
Consider the things you can do to foster a good sleep space. Have the temperature in the home lower at night, remove as much clutter from the sleeping space as you can, keep the lights low (nightlights are okay), and noise off. Many families find having white-noise machines in the hallways do help improve sleep.
Establish a time when ALL members of the family will turn their mobile devices off (studies suggest at least an hour before bedtime is optimal) and remove them from the bedroom. In the case where a cellphone has to be kept on as an emergency contact source, put the as phone far away from the bed as you can. Some families have a “device bin” where all mobile electronics get placed at night for safekeeping. Another suggestion is to have all the devices in a central area like the kitchen, plugged in and recharging.
Turn off the Internet connection at night. Many new devices like iPods do have messaging functions, and teens will chat with their friends through wifi/wired Internet even if they don’t have 3G/4G capabilities on the device.
I will be writing a full post on this point alone so please check for that in the future. Many teens have very little down time between classes, sports, activities, friends, and homework. Talk to your teen about his or her schedule and make sure there is space for rest and fun. *I will be addressing what to do if the school is issuing an unreasonable amount of homework.
If you are having battles with your teens about any of the above, it is time to resolve the battle and be firm. For those having trouble getting teens to follow the house technology rules, I suggest popping over to my Facebook page where I regularly suggest help for parenting teens. I also posted more information about technology boundaries in this previous article.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons Samantha Grierson