According to recent research, teens are averaging 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night. That’s well below the 9-10 hours recommended by sleep experts for their age.
You may argue that you stayed up late too, back in the day, and you turned out just fine. But that was before the age of back-lit cell phones and computers that keep minds alert and bodies fooled into thinking it’s still daytime. Techno gadgets, it seems, are cutting into much-needed rest. Apart from keeping kids up at night, they cause too much stimulation at a time when kids should be clearing their minds. Research is showing that they also cut production of melatonin, that helpful sleep dust our brains scatter throughout our bodies in the absence of light.
A recent Pediatrics research survey of high school students reported only 21% of them got anywhere near the needed 8-10 hours of sleep. After 9:00 pm, 82% of them were still watching TV, 55% were using a computer online, 44% were talking on the phone and 34% were texting!
Here are a few ideas to get your kids to bed earlier… and ensure they’re sleeping like a baby, whatever their age!
1. Get kids tuckered out with plenty of physical exercise during the day. We all sleep better after some physical exertion! But with so much time spent indoors with electronics, kids are getting less exercise than ever before. Exercise is most beneficial to sleep if it’s a few hours before bedtime.
2. Invest in a good mattress. A supportive, comfortable mattress is important at any age, but growing bodies need the right support as much as older bodies.
3. Cut caffeine at least 5 hours before bedtime. (Some experts recommend cutting caffeine intake by 2:30 pm). Soft drinks, some energy drinks and chocolate can all contain high levels of caffeine.
4. Shut down and power off computers an hour before bedtime. Use that time for reading, relaxing, praying, listening to music, quiet conversation, going for a walk, family time in front of the fireplace, drawing or just getting ready for bed!
5. Take drastic measures, if necessary! Ban computer use on weeknights, except for homework. Limit video games to weekends. Create a central recharging station: insist that kids bring cell phones and other portable electronics to a kitchen or home office location before bedtime– it’ll keep these gadgets out of their rooms and hands during sleeping hours.
6. Enforce a strict and regularly scheduled bedtime. To determine what time that should be, work backwards from the time your child needs to get up to ensure the right number of sleep hours for the child’s age. (Experts recommend 10-12 hours of sleep for kids up to age 5; 9-10 hours of sleep for kids aged 6-19).
7. Talk to kids about the importance of sleep. If they understand that adequate sleep leads to better grades, looks and health, they may be more likely to at least think about a little more sleep! Lobby your school to add a class about the physical effects of too little or poor quality sleep, including its effects on health, weight control and mental concentration.
8. Create a bedroom conducive to sleep. Keep it as dark as possible with light-blocking blinds or curtains (a dark room stimulates a higher production of melatonin). Turn the thermostat down and layer blankets so kids can adjust them for their temperature.
9. Model the behavior you want your kids to have. Shut off all TVs and computers by 10 pm, or enforce a quiet hour for everyone before your kid’s bedtime.
10. Shift into new sleep routine prior to the start of a new school year or semester. Used to staying up late and sleeping in, the first week back to school can be excruciating… for kids and parents! Make changes to bedtimes a week or two prior. Adjust their getting-up and going-to-bed times by 30 minutes every few days to help them ease into the new schedule.