Younger people often need more sleep than older adults. According to the National Sleep Association, teenagers are healthiest when they have 8-10 hours sleep a night, and young adults (18-25) should be getting 7-9 hours. Getting plenty of quality sleep can make a huge difference to a young person’s mood, emotional resilience and ability to concentrate.
Here are some things to keep in mind when supporting tired young people.
Be screen smart
You’ve probably heard that screens are the enemy of good sleep. That’s not always true. A lot of young people use devices before bed – but the real question is how they use them. To minimise the disruptiveness of screens to sleep cycles, encourage your child to:
Choose to watch rather than intereact with screens (eg. iView instead of Facebook)
Dim their screen brightness
Reduce waking blue light by turning devices to “night mode”
Remember their circadian rhythms
It’s common for a person’s body clock to move forward at puberty. For a lot of teenagers, a bit of sleeping in isn’t “lazy” – rest is a question of health, not morality. Problems arise when sleep hours get so skewed they start to disrupt their life.
If your child is regularly sleeping in more than a couple of hours later on weekends than they do throughout the week, it could confuse their body clock. Instead, remind them that getting consistent sleep throughout the week will help them feel better in general.
Talk about times
For younger teenagers, it can be useful to help them maintain a consistent sleep pattern. Talk and listen to your child and support them in getting enough sleep. If they’re older or have moved out of home, have a connecting conversation about the benefits of sleep. Make sure they know you’re coming from a place of wanting the best for them, rather than being disciplinary or confrontational.
Steer clear of naps
Napping can seem like a quick-fix for poor sleep cycles, but when done regularly they sometimes it can actually reinforce them. Encourage the young person in your life to focus on getting enough quality sleep in the evening rather than making up lost sleep at odd hours.
If your child is getting less sleep than would be best for them, it’s normal for their emotions to be affected. If this is the case, try not to take weary or irritable moods perfectly, and remember that this is a physiological effect of sleeplessness.
The flipside is that getting more rest can have a huge positive effect on young people’s mental health.