It is common for children and young people to experience sleep difficulties. In fact around 40% of children experience some kind of sleep difficulty. However teenagers are at particular risk due to a variety of reasons. Teenage sleep problems can arise as a result of the physical, emotional and social changes teenagers face. The pressures of school work and exams, friendships and relationships, social activities, and fluctuating emotions can make relaxation and sleep difficult.
Sleep deprivation can impact on a young person’s mental, physical and emotional health and can impair attainment (The children’s sleep charity). Teenagers suffering sleep deprivation are at a greater risk of exhaustion, depression, poor school performance, becoming overweight, getting into accidents, or engaging in risky behaviors.
Factors affecting teenagers sleep
So exactly why may teenagers experience sleep difficulties? The biggest factor is a change in their circadian rhythm or ‘body clocks’ during puberty. They go to sleep much later (sometimes in the early hours of the morning) and then struggle to wake up in the morning. Leaving them lethargic and unable to reach their full potential during the day (www.shue.org.uk).
Technology also has an impact on young people’s sleep quality. Research has shown that the blue light emitted from devices can interfere with sleep patterns. The body needs light and dark to keep our body clock on track. Melatonin, the sleep hormone is produced as light levels fall, and as a result we begin to feel tired. Light promotes wakefulness and the blue light emitted by screens suppresses melatonin levels, so the body is not ready to sleep.
Further research has shown that stress and worry, revising in bed and cramming revision into one night all have an impact on the sleep pattern of young people. As does drinking energy or high caffeine drinks and frequent snacking.
What can we do to improve teenagers Sleep?
Although there is very little support for teenagers experiencing sleep issues, there are ways to help improve your teenager’s sleep habits. Explaining about circadian rhythms and sleep cycles may help reduce the anxiety about being unable to sleep. Feeling that they are not alone with this issue goes along way in supporting young people. Encouraging healthy sleep habits and being aware of the benefits now, will lay the foundation for lifelong sleep habits.
A teenager’s bedrooms should be a calm, relaxing place to be. Choose neutral colours such as whites, greys, blues and greens. Avoiding colours such as red, yellow and orange in large quantities, to reduce over stimulation. Investing in quality blackout curtains or blinds will help to ensure the room is dark. Ideally bedrooms should be device free, including TV, phones, gaming equipment etc.
Don’t try to make up for lost sleep. Often teenagers will sleep in late at weekends or school holidays to catch up on the sleep they have missed. While this can offer relief in the moment, it can confuse the sleep cycle. It is better to keep a regular sleep routine of going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day.
- Avoid screens in the hour before bed. Investing in an alarm clock rather than using a phone for the alarm also helps with this.
Avoid caffeine drinks and energy drinks, ideally from lunchtime. Warm milk, water or herbal tea before bed can aid sleep. Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the production of melatonin (sleep hormone). Hot chocolate contains high sugar levels, so is not advised before bedtime.
Eating supper 30 mins before bedtime may also help sleep, for example a banana, toast or cereal without sugar. Interestingly yoghurt, peanut butter and bananas actually help the body produce melatonin.
Find time for regular exercise during the day and at least an hour of relaxation time. It is important to avoid high intensity exercise in the hour before bedtime.
Although it may be challenging for teenagers to get good quality sleep, it is vital that they are encouraged to establish a good routine and sleep habits. Good sleep routines are not just for small children. The long term benefits of good sleep will impact all areas of a teenagers life and well being, and will improve appearance, weight, and the ability to reach their full potential. It also provides a very good excuse to go and redecorate your teenagers bedroom! 😂
Further information and advice about teenage sleep can be found at www.thechildrenssleepcharity.org.uk
You can also contact Petit and Small for further advice about decorating teenagers bedrooms.