Why Sleep Rituals are Important for Teens.

Can’t fall asleep?images

Sometimes it’s hard for teens to wind down by the end of the day. Between school, sports,
tutors, friends and homework—their brains are constantly on overdrive. No wonder many teens complain of waking up tired in the AM. They aren’t getting the proper rest they need. Think about it. People teach us how to drive, how to cook, how to study…so why don’t people teach us how to sleep?  The solution is a sleep ritual.

Here are a few tips to help you sleep.

  1. Limit your screen time.  Not just at night, but during the day.  Opt for going outside, reading, or relaxing without a smart phone or tablet near by. It helps your brain wind down.
  2. An hour before bed, begin what I like to call the “sleep ritual”.  Put away all school books, notebooks, homework, etc., and pack your backpack for the next day. Then, put the bag out of sight, ready for the morning.
  3. Shut all computers, smart phones, and video games off.  The key here is no bright lights distracting you.
  4. Pull down your bed covers, then lower the lights in your room. This triggers your brain that sleep is coming. (*Low music is optional.)
  5. Take a warm shower in low light or no light. Slow down your mind in the shower by breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focus on your breathe.  The warm water helps produce oxytocin, which help us relax and preps us for sleep.
  6. After the shower, keep your eyes cast downward. This limits the visual distractions that cue your brain to be active again. After leaving the shower, so straight to your room.  Do not interact with family, or get distracted by sounds.
  7. Once you enter your room, shut off the low light (and music if it’s not on a timer) and go to bed. Chances are you will fall a sleep faster and sleep more soundly.

Facts/Tips

1) Watching tv in bed is the worse! It doesn’t trigger sleep and inevitably you will keep waking up when the actions on the screen shift in volume.  This disrupts your entire sleep cycle.

2) We sleep best in cool environments. So, if you have a habit of keeping socks on before bed or loading on the covers, think about changing that habit. Chances are you kick off the socks in the night and wake up from being over heated.  Open a window as well.

3) Drink a glass of water before bead. It hydrates the brain and helps with it’s “self-cleaning” process. You will wake up more rested.

4) If you are a light sleeper, sleep with ear plugs. The average person wakes up far more during the night than they realize.  Just because you can’t remember waking up, doesn’t mean that you didn’t.

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Is Your Teen too Emotional? She May Just Need More Sleep.

Trust me, I’m not trying to disregard the very real mood swings, hormonal  shifts or menstrual effects that happen during the teen years. But, not getting enough sleep can exacerbate any and all of these conditions. The average teen gets roughly 5 hours of sleep nightly during a school week. That’s just not enough. The human body is still growing and the brain still forming until age 25. Sleep plays a vital part in the growth of a healthy body and mind. Many teens try to make up for this sleep deprivation on the weekends by sleeping those two days away, but that doesn’t really balance things out.

I started thinking about teens and sleep after interviewing a 16-year-old girl at one of the high schools in San Francisco. She was extremely emotional throughout the interview even when discussing non-emotional issues. She became teary-eyed every time she spoke. Even if I made the conversation light hearted and joked, she still had watery eyes. This was all a bit extreme, even for a 16-year-old girl.  So, I asked her if she’s always this emotional and she said “pretty much.” Finally, she said something that clicked during our conversation. She said that she was stressed and exhausted all the time. So, I asked her how much sleep she gets a night. She said, probably 3 or 4 hours. I told her that may be the problem or at least part of her problem. Not getting enough sleep can make anyone irritable and more emotional. Just ask any new mom or graduate students trying to complete a thesis. Small spurts of relief on the weekends, just doesn’t repair the system fully. Next time your teen seems a bit moody or irritable, first ask her if she’s sleeping enough. The average teen should be getting between 8 and 9 hours of sleep nightly for peak health. Check in with your teen on her sleep habits from time to time. Help teach healthy sleep patterns and encourage them to get to bed at a consistent time nightly.