7 Tips For Better Sleep In Children And Teens
Aiding better sleep in children and teens is an important key to their health and development. Here's how you can help them sleep better
Children, teens, and adults all need to get enough sleep in order to perform well and maintain good health. Kids and young adults from the ages of puberty to 22 should sleep for approximately nine hours per day, according to the Child Mind Institute. However, in a busy world full of academic pressure, after-school activities, time with friends, and technology, quality sleep time often suffers. Sleeplessness can promote anxiety and affect well-being. In fact, 75% of teens surveyed by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) report experiencing anxiety before the age of 22. Not only does a lack of sleep affect a young person’s mental health, but it can also have an impact on their physical health as well. It’s so important to ensure that kids and teens are prioritizing sleep for a happy, healthy life. The following are seven tips that parents can use to help their kids enjoy restful sleep consistently. 1. Keep Them on a Schedule It’s no fun to have to nag your kids to go to bed on time, but maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is crucial for preventing sleep problems and avoiding chronic sleep deprivation. For kids and younger adolescents, it can be a bit easier to enforce a standard bedtime. For teens, though, you may have to work a bit harder. Talk to your teen about why sleep is so important. Preventing problems like depression, anxiety, and poor academic performance are just a few reasons that might compel a teenager to go to bed on time. 2. Limit Your Kids’ Screen Time For most of us, our screens are causing at least a few problems when it comes to getting enough sleep. Research shows that excessive screen time reduces melatonin production, which is a hormone that aids in sleep. Detaching adolescents from their phones is extremely difficult, but it’s important to have your kids turn off their screens an hour before bed. Cutting off the blue light from the screen will help them fall asleep faster and improve the quality of their sleep. And yes, this should be a family rule that all the adults follow too! 3. Compel Them to Eat Healthy Foods Keeping to a schedule means more than setting a bedtime. It also means keeping meals on a regular schedule so that late-night snacking doesn’t interfere with sleep. Junk food that’s full of sugar and simple carbohydrates are the worst culprits. One of the best ways to reduce unhealthy snacking is to serve healthy meals on a set schedule and to keep junk food out of the house. You might get some complaints, but you’ll all sleep more soundly and feel better. 4. Try Over-the-Counter Melatonin Some sleep aids create dependency, but melatonin is a natural choice that won’t pose any risks to your children. Of course, you should consult a physician first, but over-the-counter melatonin may help your kids enjoy more restful sleep, especially during the teen years when their bodies seem to be on a totally different sleep schedule than the rest of the world. 2-3 mg should be taken 1-2 hours before bed for the best results. 5. Help Your Kids to Develop Good Sleep Habits While They’re Young Setting expectations and boundaries around screen time, bedtime, and studying before children enter adolescence is extremely helpful in creating good sleep habits. Getting those habits established before the social and academic pressures of junior high and high school come into play can really make a difference in ensuring that your children are well-rested throughout their childhood and teen years. 6. Keep Them Active We all need regular exercise to stay healthy. Not only does physical activity boost our mood and help us stay healthy, but it can also help us to wind down and sleep better. Kids might prefer to stay inside and play on their devices, but it’s important to keep them active. Sixty minutes a day is a good baseline. Exercising too close to bedtime won’t help them fall asleep, but some after-school activity (perhaps a family jog or yoga session?) can set the stage for a good night’s sleep. 7. Create a Restful Environment Bright lights and loud music aren’t the best options for bedtime. It’s important to make your child’s bedroom restful and comfortable. Keep the temperature cool, and give them a healthy snack before bed if they’re too hungry to sleep. Make sure the room is dark enough and encourage a low-key activity like reading before bedtime.
Take Charge and Be a Good Role Model
You may need to get creative in motivating your kids to get more sleep, but it’s well worth the effort. The effects of chronic sleep deprivation are alarming and can affect kids and teens in all areas of their life. It’s important to take charge and provide the tools to help your kids get enough rest. Finally, you need to walk the walk yourself. Your kids will quickly notice if you’re still pulling all-nighters or bringing your phone to bed. Be a good role model and use the motivation to help your kids sleep as a way to get more rest yourself. It’s a win-win for the whole family!