How to Deal with Sleep Problems in Teens

Have you seen the report Adolescent Sleep Needs and Patterns from the National Sleep Foundation?

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) determined that teens and young adults are a high risk for problem sleepiness. In other words, a large percentage of that group doesn’t get enough quality sleep at night and has trouble staying alert and focused during the day. The biggest concern is that the lack of alertness can lead to accidental injuries and fatalities. The report that drivers 25 or under cause more than half of the car accidents from falling asleep at the wheel. Sleepiness has also been linked to poor short-term memory, difficulty learning, bad mood, and low productivity.

Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep at night and very few get it, only 15% according to one survey. They also can have very irregular sleep patterns as they try to make up for lack of sleep during the week by sleeping in on the weekend. This can then lead to further sleep problems like trouble falling asleep or waking up and poor quality or fragmented sleep.

They offer some suggestions for addressing the problem, mostly around educating people about the importance of getting enough sleep. The only real actionable item they suggest is to start the school day later so that the kids can get the sleep they need. I agree with this but it is largely out of our control. Last year I had to get my 7 year old daughter up at 6:30 every morning to give her enough time to wake up properly before going to school. If she went to public school this year she would have to get up even earlier to catch the school bus at 6:30. We decided on home school this year so as not to put them, or us, through that.

Since there are so many things about this that are out of our control, we can instead make sure that their limited quantity of sleep is at least higher quality sleep. My kids sleep on a magnetic mattress pad with a magnetic comforter and magnetic pillow. Our experience is that they get to sleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night with this sleep system so that they wake up well rested. The report mentioned controlled light exposure. I have read that bright sunlight in the morning, full-spectrum light, and enhanced blue-spectrum light can help to balance and regulate circadian rhythms, so a full-spectrum lamp may be of benefit. I have also been told that air quality in the bedroom can affect sleep quality, which makes sense since we breath that air for 8.5 (ideally) hours. When I have some extra money I want to get a good air filter that generates negative ions for the bedroom.

I’d like to hear what you are doing to improve quality of sleep. Please share your experiences in a comment below.

Wayne Woodworth


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