#1 – Eight is Great, but Nine is Divine.
Aim for 9 to 9.5 hours a night. Yes, really. Research shows that most teens need that much to feel and function their best. Lack of sleep can affect your mood, your thinking, your reaction time in sports, and, if old enough, your driving! Cranky? Low energy? Can’t focus? Get that sleep!
#2 – Routine. Routine. Routine.
Stick to regular sleep and wake times each day. Like it or not, this means weekends too. You can’t sleep for 5 hours one night and 12 hours the next and expect to feel good. There is no such thing as “catching up on sleep.” You can’t store it up like a piggy bank, and you can’t write IOU’s once you’re in debt. Either you get the sleep you need for the day, or you don’t.
#3 – Create Calm Conditions.
People sleep better when it is dark, cool, and quiet. If you need to, consider curtains or an eye mask to keep it dark. Use ear plugs, a fan, or “white noise” to drown out auditory distractions. But save those eardrums– no music in the headphones! If you can, avoid stressful activities in bed or in your bedroom. This keeps the chore of daily work out of your sleeping space.
#4 – Ditch Your Devices.
More than 90% of teenagers use some form of technology in the hour before bedtime. Texting, social media, and video games are sleep enemies. Light from screens can alter your brain’s natural sleep cycle, and phone notifications can wake you up. Having sleep issues? Stop using screens well before bedtime and leave devices outside the bedroom so they can’t distract you.
#5 – Nighttime > Naps.
Napping too long, especially in the afternoon, can throw off your ability to fall asleep at night. Many teens also wake up from naps with less energy and motivation for things they need to do, like homework. When in doubt, keep it short and sweet at under 30-minutes. And remember, there is no nap that can take the place of a good night’s sleep.
#BONUS – A Plan is a Plan.
In the end, let sleep have a natural place in your day. You can help things with healthy food and exercise while limiting sugar and caffeine before bed. If you have difficulty falling asleep, don’t watch the clock. Don’t even count sheep. While on the pillow, focus on one positive thought, and one thought only. Letting the mind wander can actually keep the brain awake. Slow your breathing and think about one good thing that happened that day. Sweet dreams!