For those of us lucky enough to have regular sleep patterns this may not be something we think about too much, but for many teenagers insomnia is a huge problem.
How well does your child sleep each night? For how long?
What do you do to make sure they get a good night’s sleep?
I’ve had many conversations with parents about this over the years. It’s such an important topic, and one that’s not talked about in all families.
I have vivid memories of being a teenager – wide awake late at night, a brain that wouldn’t “turn off” to let me fall to sleep – and exhaustion in the mornings to follow! It really can be a very challenging experience, especially with a full day of school ahead. Many young people when probed about this have very similar stories to tell.
For me, getting my first TV in my room at age 15 was a disaster for my bedtime reading, and did little to help my sleeping patterns. I can only imagine what a laptop/tablet/phone in the bedroom does for current teenagers.
In many ways I think of myself as quite a liberal parent, BUT, there is no way electronic devices are entering my teenage child’s bedroom on a school night. That sleep time, away from distractions, is just too important for me to even open dialogue on this – and anyway, bedtime is book time! Or should be, in my old person’s mind.
It isn’t only me thinking this way, of course. Earlier this year there was an enlightening article in The Guardian newspaper, describing this issue as a “hidden health crisis”, and noting that the rise in teenage insomnia was at least partly down to technology and the way that the blue light from screens, used close to bedtime, suppresses the production of the sleep related hormone melatonin.
It’s hard to overemphasise the importance of a good night’s sleep in allowing students to function properly the next day; and even more importantly, an ongoing lack of sleep can have quite serious health effects. The recommended amounts of sleep for Lower Secondary students is somewhere in the 9 to 12 hour range, reducing to 8 to 10 hours for 13 to 18 year olds.
Is your child getting enough sleep?
If they are not, you might want to think about what you, and they, could do differently to make this happen. For me, a key point is discussing the importance of sleep and making sure screens are not finding their way into bedrooms – some teenagers can be extraordinarily sneaky in order to get at their late night social media or games!
Harvard Health Publishing published a very enlightening article a couple of years ago, suggesting a few important steps that we could all consider implementing:
1. Make sleep a priority. Schedule it, and set a non-negotiable bedtime. Be firm and consistent!
2. Start the bedtime routine earlier; reducing physical and mental activity; winding down…
3. Shut off the screens at least an hour before bedtime, and, no phones in bedrooms; buy an alarm clock for them instead (avoiding the phone alarm “needed” argument!).
4. Keep the same sleep routines on weekends. A little leeway is fine, but aim for as little variation as you can manage. Regular sleep times are important in developing sleep patterns.
A final point… It’s difficult for our children to take us seriously if we don’t take our own advice.
How are your own sleep routines? Could you do well to keep the screens out of your bedroom? Maybe you could read more too?
Are you ready for the parent challenge?
It’s not easy for many of us to avoid being hypocrites on this one! We do need to lead by example though…
Mr Kevin Pugh