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Helping Your Teen Get More Sleep

California governor, Gavin Newsom, recently signed a bill into law that will restrict California high schools from starting before 8:30am and California middle schools before 8:00am. While I am aware that there are mixed feelings about this new law -which will be rolled out by the year 2022 – I thought it good timing to discuss sleep tips for teens.

Many teenagers seem to be chronically sleep deprived. Many teens also gravitate towards keeping later hours, really unable to fall asleep early enough to log enough Zzzzs before early wake-up times for school and activities (hence one of the justifications for and hopeful benefits of the new law)

The #1 reason why teens are so sleep deprived…

TECHNOLOGY is a common invader of sleep and disrupts sleep in several ways:

1.  Many tech products emit a blue light that overstimulates and therefore disrupts our natural sleep: wake cycles.

2.  When teens go to sleep with their phones on or in their rooms, texts and calls can interrupt sleep (many teens message late at night and many teens feel compelled to leave their phones on overnight “in case a friend needs [them]”.

3.  Teens who stay up late doing homework/ finishing homework may have been able to get to sleep sooner if they were not multitasking or getting distracted by their technology (messaging and social media especially).

4.  Stress.  Studies have shown how common it is in American households that checking email is the last things adults do before bed and the first thing they do upon awaking.  So, instead of decompressing and unwinding into a peaceful sleep, one never knows what they may have to tend to when checking technology right before sleeping.  Most of the time these are not crisis situations and could certainly wait until the next day, but teens and adults alike tend to get pulled in. An example is checking Instagram and seeing a post of friends for something you were not / your teen was not included. In this example, instead of being all ready for sleep, this could incite upset feelings and ruminations.


What parents can do to help:

Certainly technology is not the only reason teens are not getting good quality and long enough sleep, though it is the focus of this blog entry and therefore the focus of the possible remedies.

1. First of all, I encourage you to discuss the problem, the contents of this post, the specific areas of struggle your household has, and then brainstorm some solutions (including the ones I’ll provide here). When you put some responsibility on your teen to come up with solutions or a plan, they may be more invested and more willing than if rules are just imposed upon them. That said, they may never get on board with your moves to change the problem, so another tactic is to do the new plan, see how it goes, and re-evaluate as needed.

2.  Limit technology either by times of day and/ or amount of time per day.  Many phones will allow the user to track their time on various apps and functions, and it may be an eye-opening experience for your teen to see how much time they’re spending mindlessly.  (Links for apps to reduce screentime)

3.  Phones and devices go into parents room to charge at night or to a central location such as the kitchen.

4.  Encouraging your teen to turn their phone on to ‘airplane mode’ at a certain time of night. That way, they can still have their phone and access to the alarm clock function and their music but less temptation re incoming messages.

5.  Finding or encouraging alternate nighttime rituals rather than going solely from the blue light and stimulation to sleep.  It can help for them to shower at night or read in bed something that’s not a school book and not on a blue light device.

6.  Encourage time management.  One main reason cited for first year college students living on campus who do not return to their college the following year is lack of time management to have been able to make the adjustments to college life and college workload. Technology is not all bad. It can be fun, a way to connect with friends, and a source for finding answers to things. So if your teen can find ways to manage their time including technology so that it does not disrupt their other priorities, that would be helpful.


Need More?

Sleep trouble / lack of adequate sleep can contribute to so many more issues, and it can also be an indicator of other problems, such as depression or anxiety.  If you are a California resident and would like to work with me or to have me counsel your teen, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you. I have an office in midtown Sacramento, an office in El Dorado Hills, or I can provide tele-health through a secured platform. (Click here to contact me)

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