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Is Stress Stealing Your Teen's Sleep?

By Staff | February 25, 2020 | Mayo Clinic Health Information Library

Is your teenager stressed out?

It wouldn't be a surprise. In addition to school and family obligations, many teens also balance jobs, sports, after-school activities, social demands and social media.

It's enough to overwhelm anyone. But teens may be even more susceptible to stress overload because of the pressures they face as they learn to become adults.

One consequence of this stress is unhealthy sleep. For many teens, bedtimes get pushed back because of busy schedules. Plus, their natural sleep-wake rhythms tend to make them night owls who prefer to go to bed later at night.

Once they do go to bed, stress can make it difficult for teens to fall asleep. It can also affect the duration and quality of sleep they get.

Why is sleep so important for teens?

Sleep is an essential part of teens' overall health. Not getting enough sleep can affect their:

  • Physical and mental health
  • Academic performance
  • Athletic performance
  • Concentration and alertness
  • Safety, including during driving
  • Ability to handle stress
  • Energy levels
  • Relationships
  • Mood

Helping your teen get better sleep

Most teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. But research shows that teens actually get closer to seven hours of sleep a night, or even less.

Here's how you can help your teen manage his or her stress for better sleep:

  • Identify stressors. Talk to your teen about the causes of his or her stress. Is your teen over scheduled? Setting unrealistic expectations? Experiencing trouble with friends? Talk about how he or she can best manage these pressures.
  • Teach your teen to say no. From after-school jobs to social outings, there are many opportunities to be active during adolescence. But trying to do everything is stressful. Teach your teen to prioritize what's important to him or her.
  • Practice time management. Help your teen manage his or her time by writing (and prioritizing) daily and weekly to-do lists. This can help your teen feel in control of his or her schedule. Plus, crossing items off a list tracks progress.
  • Prioritize sleep. When assessing the day's schedule, talk to your teen about how he or she will fit in 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep. If your teen needs to wake at 6 a.m. for school, for instance, he or she should go to bed by at least 9:30 p.m.
  • Recommend relaxation techniques. These may include listening to music, spending time outdoors, reading quietly, doing yoga or practicing breathing exercises.
  • Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Daily exercise and a balanced diet can help your teen manage stress and sleep better at night. Limit fast foods and junk foods, caffeine, sugar, and fat.
  • Limit work hours. Working long shifts may push homework and other activities late into the night. During the school year, encourage your teen to work fewer than 20 hours a week.
  • Keep electronics out of the bedroom. Don't allow TVs, computers or video game systems in your teen's bedroom. If you must keep them in the room, make sure they're turned off at least one hour before bed.
  • Schedule time to wind down. Your teen should avoid video games, violent or scary movies, texting, or internet surfing an hour before bed. Instead, encourage calming activities, such as reading a book, during this time.
  • Turn off or remove the phone. Phones should be powered off before bed. Even the screen flash of an incoming text could wake your teen, or move him or her into a lighter level of sleep. Better yet, keep the phone out of the room at night.
  • Reserve the bed for sleeping. Your teen should find somewhere else to watch TV, do homework, and talk or text on the phone.
  • Give your teen's brain a rest. Before bed, have your teen create a to-do list for the next day. Your teen might also want to write down anything else that's on his or her mind. This can help the brain relax before bed.

This article is from Mayo Clinic Health Information Library and is legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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