Teens across the board are not getting enough sleep. Some of that is due to school schedules, with school starting too early or homework going too late. But once they actually head to bed, many teens have trouble falling or staying asleep. That’s where a routine can come in handy.
When your kids were little, chances are their bedtime ritual went something like this: bath, book, bottle, babble, bed. And it worked! With teens, bedtime habits can seem more complicated but they don’t have to be. Research shows that they could just use a more grown-up version of that routine.
- Why a bath (shower): Baths or showers don’t just clean off the grit of the day. They actually help your body get ready for sleep. The warm water increases your body’s temperature, and then it returns it to a cooler state when you get out. This causes your brain to release melatonin, a hormone which helps regulate sleep and wake cycles and has been linked to faster and better sleep.
- Why a book: Screens in the room are a no-go. Increased TV time has been linked to decreased sleep, but a new study points the finger at other screens too. This new research shows that kids who have small electronics in their rooms get less sleep than those who don’t. The theory, of course, is that they are using them rather than sleeping. But, just having them on in the room can interfere with sleep too. The National Sleep Foundation found that 68 percent of the teens kept an electronic device on all night – and the study found that the blue light emitting from the devices was interfering with sleep. Turns out it can keep the pineal gland from releasing melatonin, even if you’re not looking at the screen. Just one more reason to keep the bedroom screen free.
- Why a bottle (snack): Insomniacs may be able to blame some of their sleep issues on the fact that their body wakes them up because they are hungry. Research shows that having a light snack can help your body stay asleep. The key word is light – if you eat too much, your body will be working overtime digesting. And beware of any foods that might have hidden caffeine, like chocolate. A light carb like cereal or some crackers is a perfect pre-bedtime snack.
- Why some babble (debrief): Having too much on your mind can interrupt sleep too, so spending a few minutes writing out what you’re thinking about – say an upcoming test or your chem lab — can be an effective way to literally get it off your mind. Some people keep a notebook near their bed for this reason. If you wake up with a killer lead for your essay, or realize you forget to memorize your French vocab, writing it down will let your brain stop thinking about it, so you can head back to sleep.
The benefits of sleep are irrefutable – better grades, better health, better attention and an all-around better day the next day. Incorporating a simple bedtime routine is one of the savviest ways to ensure teens get as much of it as they possibly can.