For many teens, even ones that had busy times, summer affords some opportunities for later wakeups. School begins—and so do the often far earlier wakeup times.
Being prepared does not happen automatically, says Dr. Meir Kryger, a world-renowned expert on sleep and chief editor of the leading textbook about sleep medicine The Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine.
In order to adjust your child’s sleep schedule, Dr. Kryger says, it’s imperative to turn off cell phones and other electronic devices at least an hour before children and teens go to sleep. At stake, he says: poor school performance and health problems. Especially with school bus pickups starting ahead of very early school start times, Dr Kryger says in an interview, “There is the potential for kids to become extremely sleep-deprived during the transition period.”
This is especially important given that older teenagers’ circadian rhythms tend to go later—and then later. One, two or three in the morning is a far cry from 10:30 in the evening. Weekends become sleep-fests during the day with all-nighter type hours at night—and the cycle becomes entrenched.
Dr. Kryger asserts that sustained disrupted sleep can lead to sleep disorders, often beginning with bad habits. Some of the health concerns that stem from sleep issues include obesity, sleep apnea and hyperactive behavior. Some teens even develop narcolepsy.
The best thing to do for your child—including your teenaged child—is to work hard to instill good sleep habits. If something’s going awry, before you head down a road of attention deficits or other diagnoses, get back to basics: get your child’s sleep hygiene in order.
Here are a few ideas to get better sleep routines underway for your teen :
- Keeping a “bedtime” and a wake-up time—and sticking as closely to it as you can, even on the weekends really helps the body develop a rhythm and routine.
- Quiet things down before bedtime: don’t eat, don’t drink, and don’t exercise in the hours leading up to sleep. Try to finish up homework and avoid screens.
- Create an actual bedtime routine, so the body receives signals about sleepiness. A bath or shower, reading a book, keeping a diary or making a to-do list you can then let go of can all help your teen clear her or his mind—and get to much-needed, well-deserved sleep.