Turn September into Sleeptember
for your teen
School is back in session but is your teen back to getting enough sleep for class? If the answer is no, then I have some advice that may help.
Here’s what I know: a recent National Sleep Foundation survey found that 25% of teenagers sleep in class at least once a week. It’s because they’re chronically sleep deprived! The average teen sleeps an hour and a half less each night than the needed 8 to 9.5 hours to be alert the next day. The sleep hormone melatonin releases later during puberty, meaning your teen probably doesn’t get drowsy until 11 p.m. Studying late at night and using smartphones and computers only add to the problem.
Let’s g et your teen on track this ” Sleeptember ,” an initiative this month to take steps to get better sleep.
1. Go to bed at the same time
Your teen should go to bed at the same general time — not varying by more than an hour — on weekdays and weekends.
2. Wake up at the same time
Your teen should wake up at about the same every day of the week. It sets the stage for the rest of the day, allowing sleep pressure to build up by late evening and your teen to feel drowzier earlier.
3. Take a nap
Naps are okay, but they should be no more than 20 to 30 minutes and only happen in the early afternoon.
4. Get regular exercise
Have your teen exercise 30 to 60 minutes at least four times a week, but make sure it happens earlier in the day. Your teen should avoid exercising within 2 to 3 hours of bedtime because that is when he or she needs to be winding down.
5. Cut down on the caffeine
Limit caffeine intake after 2 or 3 p.m., including caffeine-containing products such as iced tea, some clear non-cola pops, energy drinks and chocolates.
6. Don’t go to bed hungry
Avoid eating a heavy meal an hour or two before bedtime. Make sure your teen’s meals include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals and bread, rice, pasta, fish and poultry. Don’t skip breakfast! Also, avoid fried foods and limit the intake of fats.
7. Avoid alcohol and nicotine
Nicotine is a stimulant and can disturb sleep. However, if your teen does smoke, he or she should avoid smoking within an hour or so of bedtime. Alcohol, sleeping pills or other over-the-counter sleep aids may disrupt sleep.
8. Establish quiet time
Set aside up to an hour of quiet time before bed every night. Your teen can listen to music, read a book or do something else that helps calm the mind and body. Avoid any screen time, exercising or heavy studying during this period.
9. Make the bedroom a relaxing environment
Your teen’s bedroom should be quiet, comfortable dark, and if possible, relatively clean, uncluttered and relaxing. The bed should only be used for sleep.
10. Call a pediatric sleep medicine specialist
If your teen has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, snores, breathes through his or her mouth, or is excessively sleepy during the day you might want to get a consultation with a sleep specialist.
Shahriar Shahzeidi, MD, FAAP, FCCP, FAASM leads the pediatric sleep team at Comprehensive Sleep Care Center is among the Washington, D.C. metro area’s most experienced medical practices for expert diagnosis, treatment and care for sleep disorders in children of all ages.
Dr. Shahzeidi is board-certified in Pediatrics, Pediatric Pulmonology and is a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He is a graduate of Howard University Medical Center and completed his fellowship in Pediatric Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at Children’s National Medical Center and George Washington University in Washington, DC.
For more expert advice from Dr. Shahzeidi on getting your child better sleep or for an interview, please contact Ms. Media.