Help Your Teenagers Get A Good Night’s Sleep
In the current day, with all forms of technology, it can be a struggle to get your teen to put their device down and go to sleep. Recent research from Oxford University has shown that the optimum 4 hours and 17 minutes of screen time can be good for teenagers’ brains and for them to develop social connections and skills. It is only past this point that screen time begins to affect children’s brain development. The focus of the study is to insist that parents may be over concerned about computers harming their children.
However, this study doesn’t take teenagers’ sleep patterns into consideration. So our sleep expert, Dave Gibson, explores the influence of screen time in regards to your child’s sleep pattern, followed by 7 top tips to help your teenager…
Modern teenagers now face a host of challenges in the evening after school, balancing ever-increasing amounts of homework, real life and online social demands, which encourages them to go to bed later. This is on top of the natural shift in a teen's circadian rhythms, "the sleep phase delay”, which puts back their need to sleep for about two hours. Before puberty, the body becomes naturally sleepy around 8:00pm or 9:00pm. As puberty begins, this rhythm shifts a couple of hours later, and we tend to want to go to sleep around 10:00pm or 11:00pm. This change is often a hard adjustment for a teenager.
A teenager’s use of technology late into the night often becomes a battleground, as parents are well aware that today’s teenagers tend to go to school tired. According to the American Sleep Federation one study* suggested that just 15% of teenagers slept 8½ hours on school nights, when ideally teenagers need 8 to 10 hours sleep.
Other studies** have shown that:
Using a computer in the hour before bed makes it three times more likely to get less than 5 hours sleep. In addition, the use of all technology in the hour before bedtime was significantly associated with taking longer to fall asleep.
Apart from stimulating the brain, the main problem of display screens is the specific wavelength of ‘Blue light’ emitted, this tricks our brain into thinking it is time to get up. ‘Blue light’ acts like the morning sunlight, which wakes us up by switching off the Melatonin (the sleep hormone) production in the brain. This is the opposite desired effect for the evening time, as to help us sleep Melatonin needs to be switched on in the dark.
Practical Tips To Help Your Teen Sleep Better:
Set a device curfew for all the family
Put all devices to bed at least one hour before you go to bed – this includes your mobile phone!
Take phones out of the bedroom before bedtime
In an ideal world, we would have no technology (including mobile phones) in the bedroom what so ever. This would reduce the impact of blue light and over stimulation from screens just before sleep. However, this is not practical for modern teenagers who want to talk to friends on their phone after school in their room, and often study in their room as well in the evening. Parents could set the tone for the household and keep technology out of their room including phones. This then makes it easier to enforce a boundary with teenagers that all phones are removed from the bedroom overnight in order to avoid the temptation to use them (and that technology is switched off early).
Reduce blue light
- Dim your computer screen or even better wear glasses that block out blue light
- Install a blue light filtering system such as flux (justgetflux.com) on your computer and electronic devices to reduce blue light
- Always use the nighttime mode on your devices
Establish regular relaxing bedtime routine
- Avoid stimulation close to bedtime
- Stop computer games and heavy studying early in the evening
- Set a relaxing routine such as reading a novel or having a bath
Exercise and healthy diet
- Avoid caffeine after lunch, as it is a stimulant
- Exercise and a healthy diet will help to support a good night’s sleep
Weekend Lie-ins: Maximum 2 hours
- You can allow your teen to sleep in on the weekend to catch up with sleep
- Don’t let their lie in be longer than two hours, as this will disrupt their teenage body clock, making it harder to wake up for school on Monday morning
Educate teenagers on how screen usage affects sleep
Give your teenagers the facts about how screen time stimulation and blue light late at night will both prevent getting to sleep easily and reduce the amount of overall sleep.