Think your teen is asleep? Think again!

A study published in Pediatrics in 2009 found that teenagers are not getting an adequate amount of sleep. This was especially prevalent in teens with high usage of electronics. Some statistics of what these teens reported doing after 9pm: 82% reported watching TV, 55% being online, 44% talking on the phone, 42% reported listening to an MP3 player, 36% watching movies, 34% reported text messaging, 24% reported playing computer games. There were significant connections between high usage of electronics and drinking caffeine (some as much as four espressos a day!), as well as falling asleep in class. Only 20% of the teens surveyed reported getting the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep a night. And this was 2009, before the Ipad was released!

Taking into consideration that a teenager’s brain is in the midst of a major growth spurt, and that most of the learning and wiring of the brain happens while sleeping, these statistics are quite concerning. Some things you can do in your house (and yes, there will be disagreement from your teen): make the bedroom a bedroom, meaning furnish and decorate it to honor the bed. Make the bed as comfortable and inviting as possible: clean, soft sheets, comfortable pillows and blankets. Paint the walls soothing colors and provide curtains or blinds in order to limit outside lights and noise. If possible, keep the desk and electronics out of the bedroom. Our brains register what we do in each room and react accordingly, so if our brains recognize the bedroom as the place where homework anxiety happens, it reacts negatively when we try to go to sleep.

Pay attention to nature and wildlife around: all gets quiet with the sunset and all wakes up with the sunrise. Humans also used to go to sleep as sunsets started happening, and wake up with the sunrise. Nowadays, due to electricity and many entertainment options, our natural schedule is thrown off and our brain is confused and over-used. By changing your environment in the evening, you’re recreating the natural changes sunsets usually bring along. Remove or dim down electronics, toys, noise makers of any sort. Set an electronics ‘curfew’ for the house, where all electronics are set into chargers or away from rooms at a certain time of the night, and enforce this rule. Dim lights in the house, encourage quiet activities such as board or card games, drawing, reading, hot baths. 

By attempting to recreate a more natural sleeping environment and helping your teens get more sleep, you’re ultimately supporting their development, school performance, and most importantly, their health!