While it might seem to you that teenagers are always sleeping, in reality most teens don’t get as much sleep as they need – with 7 out of 10 sleeping less than the recommended minimum of 8 hours.
Why do teenagers sleep so much, why is it important for them, and how much do they really need?
Why sleep is important for teens
The teenage years are a critical developmental period. Both the brain and the body are in the process of transitioning from childhood to adulthood – and some significant changes are taking place.
When teens sleep, their brains are busy processing all they’ve learned during the day. Sleep helps their thinking become sharper and increases their ability to make better thought-out decisions – which leads to improved academic performance and more regulated emotions.
Sleep also helps organs function more efficiently. It boosts the immune system, allows muscles and tissues to recover, and helps regulate hormones. Growth hormones are released during sleep, so those eight hours a night are helping your teen grow into the fabulous adult they’re meant to be!
What are the dangers of not getting enough sleep?
Lack of sleep can cause behavioural problems, poor decision-making, poor emotional development, and even contribute to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
If that wasn’t reason enough for your teen to hit the hay, proper sleep can also help them maintain a healthy weight, have more energy, and even improve their skin.
How much sleep do teenagers need?
Teenagers should get between eight to ten hours of quality sleep every night, but particularly on school nights.
How to help your teen get better sleep
Biologically, teens may be more inclined to stay up late and sleep in – according to SleepFoundation.org, a child’s biological clock shifts forward in adolescence as melatonin is released later in the evening. Instead of feeling drowsy, teens tend to become more alert at night, while they will still be feeling sleepy in the morning.
That means helping your teen get more sleep requires a two-pronged approach to tackle both evening and morning routines.
Helping your teen get to sleep
- Make sure they have at least eight hours of time for sleeping each night.
- Create consistent night-time and morning routines, and keep the same schedule on weekends.
- Limit screens at least half an hour before bed. Make sure all devices are put on silent, so they won’t disturb in the middle of the night.
- Get them exercising – teenagers should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical exercise per day.
- Limit caffeine intake after 3pm, including caffeinated fizzy drinks.
- Curb food intake before bed, as a full stomach can impact sleep. Conversely, it’s hard to go to sleep when hungry, so make sure they eat a well-balanced meal earlier in the evening.
- It can help to have a bedroom that is cool, dark, and quiet.
- Discourage your children from doing homework or playing games in bed – try and keep the bed a space reserved only for sleep.
- Some teens may benefit from using a noise machine or a sleep app to help them get to sleep. Check out the NHS sleep app library for suggestions.
- Pay attention to your teen’s sleeping habits. Many teenagers may not think to tell anyone they’re having trouble sleeping. If needed, work with your young person to help them manage and reduce their stress levels.
Helping your teen get up
- Set a regular wake-up time for the entire household, and be physically and mentally present with your foster teen until they’re out the door – that means no phones, emails, etc.
- Adopt a daily routine such as having breakfast together (without devices) and keep it up even on weekends.
- Provide your teen with an alarm clock so they can take control over their own wake up time. Having an alarm that’s separate from any smart device will help keep your teen from being distracted by looking at their phone.
- Teens hate being told what to do, so try to find ways to incentivise them to get up in the morning that don’t rely on you. For example, you can offer to give them a lift to school if they are ready by a certain time, but otherwise they need to walk. Experiment until you find something that works for your family.
There are many teenagers in need of a safe home across the UK. If you think you can provide a comfortable place for a teen in your community to rest their head at night, please get in touch today.