How to Help Your Teen Develep Better Sleep Habits

There is nothing new about teenagers staying up late; we all did it. However, it seems our generation didn’t have the same stress, anxiety, and mental health crisis that we are facing today. Teen depression, self-harm, and suicide ideation have continued to be a major concern for parents across the country. Add sleep deprivation, and it can be a recipe for disaster, both emotionally and physically.

Sleep is critical during the teenage years. Not getting enough can lead to poor academic performance, risky behavior (substance use) in the present, and long-term health issues down the road. According to studies, teens need between 9 and 9 ½ hours per night, yet the average amount of sleep that teenagers get is between 7 and 7 ¼ hours.

3 Ways to Promote Healthy Sleep Habits for Your Teen

As parents, we understand the importance of a good night’s sleep, but convincing your teenager is not always easy. We can be the punching bag for their moodiness and defiance, and in some situations, teens will engage in risky behavior such as substance use when they lack proper rest.

Here are three tips to start helping your teen get a better night’s sleep:


1. Eating

People are now realizing how food can affect how we feel; studies share that eating well can improve our sleep especially with young people. One study illustrated how insufficient sleep in teenagers is associated with overweight and obesity.

  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as sodas, energy drinks, coffee, and tea, especially in the afternoon and evenings.
  • Avoid a big meal before bedtime, but your teen should not go to bed hungry. A light snack before bed is a good idea.
  • Adding healthy food choices to your family diet can improve everyone’s wellness and sleep.

2. Excercise

Physical activity is good for everyone, even if it’s just walking around the neighborhood. In a world of electronics, it’s imperative we get our kids disconnected from their devices and moving. Researchers found that when teenagers got more physical activity, they fell asleep earlier, slept longer, and slept better that night.

  • Sports, activities, hobbies: What is your teen interested in? It doesn’t have to be competitive—playing basketball with neighborhood kids, tennis with friends, jogging, or even joining a dance club.
  • Yoga, pilates, boxing: Locally you can find clubs that may interest your teen and help get them moving and motivated.
  • Family fun: Get the bikes tuned-up, go for rides on trails, check out national parks—get out, get moving. Fresh air, sunshine, and fun can help everyone have a better night’s sleep.

3. Electronics

The technology boom has had many positive effects on our lives; however, the negatives can be very (very) concerning. Parents were not equipped for the fallout of how social media and the overuse of screentime would impact young people. Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory entitled “Social Media and Youth Mental Health,” which linked electronics to poor sleep habits in adolescents.

How can we turn this around for our teenagers?

  • Mealtime is a device-free zone. Parents need to participate in this, too. Your kids are watching your tech habits—you are their role model.
  • Family free time. Create family device-free time where, for at least an hour, you are disconnected from your electronics and engaged in an activity. (Refer to family fun—biking, walking, etc.).
  • The bedroom is for sleeping. More than 89 percent of teens keep their phones with them at night. It’s time to implement a technology contract. Parents must designate a responsible time, and phones (and devices) should be placed in a safe or lockbox until morning.

Overall, there is not one magic food or drink that will improve your teen’s sleep. It’s better to focus on overall healthy dietary patterns throughout the day, limit screentime, and get outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Also read:

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Many parents are at their wit’s end with the challenges of raising teenagers. If you are considering residential therapy, contact us for a free consultation.

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