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What Parents Need to Know about Teens and Sleep

If you think your teen isn’t getting enough sleep, you’re probably right. A recent study at San Diego State University found that 40% of adolescents clock less than 7 hours a night, even though most experts recommend about 9 hours of sleep for teens.

According to this study, technology is one of the major culprits. The researchers found that the more hours teens spent online, the less they slept. Plus, when they compared the habits of today’s teens to past generations, one of the steepest drops in sleep time occurred around 2009, just when smartphone use soared.

The consequences are serious because sleep needs are greater during adolescence when important physical and mental developments are underway.

Protect your child’s health, safety, and academic performance by helping them to sleep well.

Technology Tips for Teen Sleep:

1. Think positive. Focus on using technology productively, rather than restricting it. Distinguish between using smartphones and computers for schoolwork and communications rather than prolonged browsing.

2. Work as a team. Give your teen a voice in the process. They’re more likely to follow rules that they help to write.

3. Set a curfew. Streaming before bed can interfere with sleep due to the bright lights from computer screens, along with the mental stimulation. Shut off any electronic devices for at least an hour or two before retiring.

4. Create quiet zones. If possible, keep computers and smartphones out of your teen’s bedroom, especially during the overnight hours. Family dinners could also be a phone-free event.

5. Provide other activities. Once your teen is spending fewer hours online, fill that time with other fun and rewarding pursuits. Plan family outings, read books, and encourage extracurricular activities.

6. Be flexible. Each family has its own way of dealing with technology. Experiment until you find what works for you. Welcome your teen’s feedback, and be willing to make reasonable exceptions and adjustments.

Other Tips for Teen Sleep:

1. Talk it over. Help your teen to understand why sleep is a top priority. Discuss how it affects the quality of their life and their ability to learn. Read books or watch documentaries that explain how sleep works.

2. Stick to a schedule. It’s natural for teens to go through a period of delayed-sleep syndrome when they don’t become drowsy until later at night. Unfortunately, many schools still have early start times, so sleeping in on weekends can actually make it harder to function during the week.

3. Teach time management. Late night studying can also conflict with sleep. Show your teen how to budget their time and coordinate their assignments.

4. Limit snacking. Your teen may be tempted to raid the refrigerator while they’re up at night. Keep a supply of light snacks on hand that are easy to digest. You can also start the day with a hearty breakfast so they’ll be less hungry after dinner.

5. Consult other parents. Seek advice and support from other parents. Discuss common challenges and share your most promising solutions.

6. Drive safely. Drowsy driving is a major safety hazard. Show your teen how to spot the symptoms and call you if they need a ride. Take away the car keys if necessary.

7. Provide a role model. Your children will follow your example. Show them that you believe in the importance of sleep by following the same rules you create for them.

Encouraging your teen to get enough sleep will help them to deal with daily stress and stay alert at school. They’ll also be building lifetime habits that will create a strong foundation for their mental and physical health.

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