Getting enough sleep is important for several reasons. Lack of sleep will affect energy, memory and problem solving ability, motivation, mood, athletic performance and your immune system. Teenagers should be trying to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night; however this can be hard for some teenagers.
Through technology and research we now understand some of the changes that happen to the brain of an adolescent. Research shows that during the teenage years the circadian rhythm changes and resets to help your transition into adulthood. The circadian rhythm is our in-built body clock telling us when we should be awake and when we should be asleep.
This rhythm is also controlled by light. When the sun comes up light starts the production of hormones that keep us awake during the day. When the sun goes down and it becomes dark our body naturally starts to produce our sleep hormones.
Unfortunately some teenagers can be affected by this and they have trouble going to sleep and as a result want to wake up later in the morning. The reality is you still need to start school early in the morning and are normally required to have an action packed day studying, concentrating, socialising and then doing extracurricular activities such as sports or music.
For teenagers that are affected your only option is to make as many changes as you can to improve their ability to get sleep. Try some of the following suggestions for improving sleep.
- Set a regular bedtime
Our bodies love routine, such as waking, eating and sleeping at the same time every day. Try and set a time for going to bed each night and this needs to be before 10pm.
- Avoid late night cramming sessions
Avoid cramming all night for those exams. It will throw your sleep habits out and as a result you won’t be able to think too clearly the next day.
- Avoid devices
Try and avoid using the computer, phones and tablets 2 hours before bedtime. The back light on these devices tells your brain that it is still day time so your brain does not produce your sleepy hormones.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar
Caffeine and sugar are stimulants which give you energy. These substances will affect your ability to get to sleep and the quality of sleep that you get.
- Regular exercise
Regular exercise will improve your ability to go off to sleep; however, playing sport within 2 hours of going to bed will affect your ability to sleep.
Purchase a meditation or sleep CD that you can listen to helping you relax and get to sleep
- Don’t look at the clock
If you wake up or can’t get to sleep don’t look at the clock. All this does is make you more anxious or irritated that you are still awake and make it harder for you to get back to sleep.