• February 2016

    How and Why to Help your Teen get Enough Sleep

    Excerpts from YourTeenMagazine interview with Arianna Huffington:

    Research shows the majority of teenagers are sleep-deprived. How does not getting enough sleep impact our teens?

    The impact can be severe, and sleep is a particular problem for teens. Studies have shown that insufficient sleep is directly linked to stress and anxiety in teens. And with the distraction of technology and school start times that are too early across much of the country, a high percentage of our teens are not getting adequate sleep.

    If teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep, what is the damage and long-term effect of missing several needed hours of sleep each night?

    Chronically missing sleep can have the same negative consequences for teens as adults: a heightened risk for an array of physical and mental health problems, including heart disease, obesity, stress, anxiety, and depression. And for students, missing sleep can also mean lower academic performance.

    How can parents help their teenagers sleep better?

    The first thing parents should do is model good sleep behavior, because showing the behavior we want to encourage is better than just demanding it. Also, parents should guard against over-scheduling their children. Kids need downtime—it lets them think, be creative, connect with themselves, and recharge. Parents should also be careful about the effects of technology: all devices should be turned off well before bedtime and charged outside the bedroom.

    How can parents help teenagers learn to prioritize sleep for themselves, so when they go to college, those practices are in place?

    There are things the entire family can do to create a family ritual, like having everyone put their phones at a recharging station outside bedrooms. Also, so young people will be able to take responsibility for their own good sleep habits when they're in college, parents should start giving teens responsibility early on. This means not just telling them when to go to bed, but education about the benefits of good sleep habits, which will give them internal motivation to do it themselves.

    Suggestions from the Wilson counselors about helping your teen get enough sleep and develop good sleep habits:

      1. Help your child find balance in their lives. If they have an extremely full academic load they may need to cut back some on after-school activities. If your child plays sports year-round you may want to consider backing off on their academic load a bit. Students need 6 classes per year to graduate—keep that in mind.
      2. Help your child manage their technology. Take phones and computers out of students' bedrooms—the temptation can be too great. For an evening just monitor your student's phone to see just how many texts they are receiving how late into the night. It can be a shock. Agree on a time (about an hour before bedtime is ideal) to turn off the technology.
      3. Encourage physical activity and other interests that require your student to put down their technology.

    Finally, if you are concerned that your teen is unable to put limits on their technology use be advised that addictions to technology are a real problem. If you notice that your child is not sleeping, grades have fallen, social life has reduced, eating habits have changed, and they are not willing to go for a while without their technology, you may have a more serious problem.

    There is a new program for teens who are gaming in excess called Promoting Healthy Gaming & Tech Use Habits.

    We encourage you to seek support resources or talk with your child's school counselor!