Teenagers & Sleep: What To Do If Your Teen Isn't Getting Enough Rest
Ah, teenagers. If you look back at your teenage years and wish you could take back your unfortunate tenth-grade hairstyle, as well as literally everything that came out of your mouth before the age of 20, know that you are not alone. Teens are a notoriously... volatile delicate bunch, and who can blame them? Hormone soup does not a balanced emotional state make.
What’s worse, studies show that many teens today are chronically sleep-deprived. Let’s back up for a second and remember what a chronically sleep-deprived adult looks like. Mood swings (with a strong tendency towards anger and sadness), poor impulse control, nervousness, and impaired concentration are well-documented symptoms of sleep deprivation. A few days of insufficient sleep have the potential to turn the world’s most stable, reliable adult into the Mr. Hyde version of themselves. Now take all that and combine it with puberty. Not a pretty picture.
If it was hard to stop watching TV and get to bed when we were kids, imagine how hard it is for your teen to avoid their playground of blue-light spewing electronic devices. Even adults who are relatively in control of their impulses, armed with an understanding of how blue light affects their Circadian rhythms, have a hard time putting their phones away before bed. Unless your teen has a lot in common with the famously wise-beyond-her-years Alex of Modern Family, there’s a good chance their devices are affecting their sleep.
What can a concerned parent do if they suspect that their teen is sleep-deprived? Enforcing a bedtime and taking away their phone at night would be ideal, but for many families, this is not a realistic option. In most cases, the best thing to do is to have a calm conversation. Educate your teen about the consequences of not getting enough sleep while trying to avoid the "lecturing" tone. Since no one likes feeling tired and groggy, simply bringing it to their attention may plant the seed they need to solve the problem on their own, even if all you get is an eye-roll and a "Sure, mom/dad."
Of course, if you suspect that your teen is suffering from insomnia that’s seriously affecting their functioning, make sure to bring it to the attention of a healthcare professional. It’s easy to mistake signs of sleep deprivation for "typical teenage behaviour," which can make it hard for teens to get the help they need.