Sleep. It is a critical ingredient for health and wellbeing, and yet it is one that teenagers often go without. Most teeenagers are inherently nocturnal. Their nature is to stay up late and sleep in. In addition, teenagers are prone to delaying things that aren’t enjoyable, namely homework. These 2 qualities often converge in a way that creates an unhealthy cycle . . . students stay up late to complete work, don’t get enough sleep before they have to go to school, drag through their day, nap after school, and then wake up to start the cycle again.
Research tells us that sleep, mental health, and academic success are inextricably linked, and that sleep and sleeplessness directly correlate with school performance, and students’ views of themselves as capable of tackling challenges, learning novel material, academic risk-taking, complex problem solving, and more.
In short, our kids need sleep–much more sleep then they are often getting! So, what can we do as parents to build healthy sleep habits with our teenagers? A few thoughts . . .
Talk with your student about their sleep habits in a moment when you aren’t suggesting that they go to bed. At dinner, on a walk, or driving in the car are all times to bring up the research about sleep, and its impact on the daily life of your student.
Regular, healthy meals contribute to healthy sleep cycles. You can support your student’s sleep by ensuing they eat a healthy dinner, and are not intaking high sugar or caffeinated snacks in the later evening hours.
Help them manage access to technology at night. Though they will resist, students benefit from limits on their devices. Turning off the wifi, or setting controls on phones to turn off at certain times can help students be able to make the choice to go to sleep.
Help them think about their sleep environment. Research confirms that we typically sleep best in dark, cooler spaces that do not have any ambient light coming from electronic devices. Talking about how to set up conditions for healthy sleep can be a nice way to motivate your teenager and partner with them in making some healthier choices.
And finally, we’re following up this note with the research we have referenced above.
Research on sleep and mental health:
Research on sleep and academic success: