Sleepy teen? Help them catch much-needed Zzzs with these doc-approved tips.
Teens are busy, busy, busy. With all the late-night studying, homework and after-school social activities, it’s no wonder they tend to put sleep on the back burner. “It’s a really stressful time in their lives,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital and HealthiNation’s chief medical editor.
As a parent, and as someone who knows how vital sleep is for optimal health, it’s concerning when your kid is burning the candle at both ends. “Parents across the board are worried that their kids don’t sleep enough. They see their teens tired, they see their teens having trouble waking up in the morning, [and] they’re getting reports that their teens are falling asleep in school,” says Alok Patel, MD, a pediatrician at New York Presbyterian-Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.
The good news? You can help—and pediatricians recommend that you do. “Teenagers need parental guidance to help them [sleep] because it’s too much for them. I mean, some of the kids in the competitive schools say, ‘we don’t go to bed until 1 AM if we have an exam the next night,’” says pediatrician Dyan Hes, MD, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City. Here are some proven (yet realistic) tips to coach your teen to get better sleep.
1. Treat sleep like an important health tool. “Teens and adolescents can really focus on sleep as a health tool, something that their bodies need, just as much as exercise, just as much as nutrition,” says Dr. Patel. “It doesn’t matter if they’re in band, they’re a writer, they’re a cheerleader, [or] they’re in speech and debate. Getting more sleep will always give them a better performance.”
2. Leave tech devices in another room. It’s hard for teenagers to wind down these days, says Dr. Hes. “Getting on your phone or getting on your device just worsens their not falling asleep because they’re stimulated by their phone or their game,” she says.
“A lot of parents are now having their kids keep their cell phone and iPads in another room and not in the bedroom that they sleep [in]. Because every time they get a text and a bing, it’s hard not to see it,” says Dr. Parikh.
3. Avoid letting them sleep in on weekends. “If we get in the habit of sleeping four, five, six hours a night, then trying to catch up on weekends, your circadian clock gets a little thrown off. Which is why we don’t like the term, ‘catch-up sleep.’ Your body can’t actually catch up on not being rested. So we recommend, and again we realize this is difficult—high school parties!—to tell teens to go to bed at the same time every night,” says Dr. Patel.
4. Check in to help them stay on schedule. “What I recommend is that the parents become involved. Check in with them. [Ask,] ‘have you showered yet? Have you done your homework yet? Have you packed your book bag?’” says Dr. Hes. “For kids who need more sleep I say leave your clothes out the night before. I’m talking leave your socks out, leave your underwear out, because those kids might need to sleep until the last minute until they run for that bus,” she says.
5. Help them wind down. To help teens relax at the end of the day, suggest that they read a book in bed or take a hot shower, say Dr. Parikh. “Have the room lit in a way where you have 30 minutes to an hour to unwind,” she says.
6. Set a good example. “The most important thing for parents, adults, everyone to know is that we set an example. If we’re up late at night having a cocktail and going to bed at 2 AM, what behavior are we modeling for our children?” says Dr. Patel. “Sleep is a vital function for everyone. This starts at an extremely young age and I think it’s important for parents to realize, that if we want our teens to take sleep seriously, we need to take it seriously,” he says.
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Teenagers need parental guidance to help
them, because it's too much for them.
00:00:06,630 --> 00:00:09,764
I mean, some of the kids in
the competitive schools say,
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we don't go to bed till 1 if we
have an exam the next night.
00:00:12,982 --> 00:00:17,075
00:00:17,075 --> 00:00:20,051
Teens and adolescents can really start
to focus on sleep as a health tool.
00:00:20,051 --> 00:00:23,311
Something that their bodies
need just as much as exercise,
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just as much as nutrition, and whatever
other health regiments they're on.
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Sleep is vital.
00:00:28,870 --> 00:00:30,830
So once they kinda
reframe their mentality,
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the other important thing is a term
we like to call sleep hygiene.
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And that is gonna be everything that
you're doing before you go to bed.
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We say this like it's
a very easy on/off switch.
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The hardest thing in the world for teens
to do is get rid of electronic devices.
00:00:46,690 --> 00:00:51,710
A lot of parents are now having
their kids keep their cellphone and
00:00:51,710 --> 00:00:54,795
iPads in another room, and
not in the bedroom that they sleep.
00:00:54,795 --> 00:00:59,240
Cuz every time they get a text or
a bing, it's hard not to see it.
00:00:59,240 --> 00:01:02,290
Getting too much sleep on the weekends,
the reason why it's tricky,
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is it will really throw
off your natural clock.
00:01:04,900 --> 00:01:08,450
If we get into the habit of sleeping four,
five, six hours a night, and
00:01:08,450 --> 00:01:12,230
then trying to catch up on weekends,
your circadian clock,
00:01:12,230 --> 00:01:15,450
it gets a little burned out, which is why
we don't like the term catch up sleep.
00:01:15,450 --> 00:01:18,946
Your body can't actually
catch up on not being rested.
00:01:18,946 --> 00:01:22,850
So we recommend, and again, we realize
this is difficult, high school parties,
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is we try to tell teens to go to bed
close to the same time every night,
00:01:26,230 --> 00:01:28,850
What I recommend is that the parents
00:01:28,850 --> 00:01:29,680
00:01:29,680 --> 00:01:30,300
Check in with them.
00:01:30,300 --> 00:01:31,620
Have you showered yet?
00:01:31,620 --> 00:01:32,790
Have you done your homework yet?
00:01:32,790 --> 00:01:34,306
Have you packed your book bag?
00:01:34,306 --> 00:01:37,464
For kids who need more sleep, I say,
leave your clothes out the night before.
00:01:37,464 --> 00:01:40,470
I'm talking leave your socks out,
leave your underwear out.
00:01:40,470 --> 00:01:43,660
Because those kids might need to sleep
until the last minute, until they run for
00:01:43,660 --> 00:01:44,510
00:01:44,510 --> 00:01:46,810
Things that I talk about
with my adolescence and
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really to help them with sleep, is really
trying to find ways to relax themselves.
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Cuz this is a very stressful
time of their lives.
00:01:53,280 --> 00:01:54,104
Read a book in bed.
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That also helps create
a calming environment.
00:01:56,970 --> 00:01:58,690
Take a nice hot shower.
00:01:58,690 --> 00:02:03,570
Have the room lit in a way where you have
30 minutes to an hour to kind of unwind.
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Make sure that they get physical
exercise activity every day,
00:02:06,670 --> 00:02:10,680
because physical activity definitely
contributes to better sleep.
00:02:10,680 --> 00:02:14,280
The most important thing for
parents, adults, everyone to know,
00:02:14,280 --> 00:02:16,990
is that we set an example.
00:02:16,990 --> 00:02:20,730
If we're up late at night watching
Letterman, having a cocktail, and
00:02:20,730 --> 00:02:24,580
going to bed at 2 AM, what behavior
are we modeling for our children?
00:02:24,580 --> 00:02:26,840
Because sleep is a vital function for
00:02:26,840 --> 00:02:29,020
this starts at an extremely young age.
00:02:29,020 --> 00:02:31,194
And I think it's important for
parents to realize that,
00:02:31,194 --> 00:02:34,062
if we want our teens to take sleep
seriously, we need to take it seriously.
00:02:34,062 --> 00:02:41,193