9 tips to help your teenager get to sleep at night

Teens need around eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, but few are getting even the minimum. So, although this is the time of life when they need sleep the most, they just aren’t getting enough.


What are the effects of lack of sleep?

Lack of sleep has a real impact on our mental health and well-being. It makes us more irritable and lowers our mood, making it harder to manage the ups and downs of life. It also makes it harder to regulate our emotions which, in turn, makes conflict more likely. Circadian rhythms are our body's internal clock, running every 24 hours or so and disruption of this rhythm can lead to an increase in aggression.

As their brains mature during puberty, your tween and teenage children can stay awake for longer. Their body clock changes, making them more inclined to stay up late. When you add this to their need for connection with their peers, no wonder they aren’t sleeping. Feeling a need to be accessible to their friends 24/7 plus fear of missing out leads to constant checking and use of social media.

Nighttime is when we are all more prone to overthink what has happened during the day. This is even more prominent in young people, giving them a tendency to overthink and worry at night. How often have you found yourself lying awake replaying something you’ve said or done, only to wake the next day wondering why it felt so overwhelming? If you can give them space in the day to talk about what’s troubling them, it can help them get a more realistic perspective.

Your teen has access to social media 24/7 and they will need your help to establish boundaries around it. If they have a phone in their room at night, they are going to be using it!

I know the thought of reducing their screen time can feel impossible, but making a rule of having no phones in the bedroom at bedtime (this goes for the adults too) will benefit everyone.

As they get older, changes to how they catch up with friends, chat online, and parties mean staying up late. This can make it difficult for them to move from being practically nocturnal over the weekends and holidays and then having to be up on weekdays for school or college. I have spoken to so many parents and young people who barely saw the light of day over the lockdowns and this had a huge impact on their mental health.

It really is worth you taking some time to ensure you safeguard your teenager's sleep.

Be a sleep role model for your child, for example, by winding down before bed, reducing your screen time before bed, relaxing and managing stress, and reducing your use of stimulants like caffeine before bedtime.

Help them to manage their own sleep schedule – guide them to finding their solutions and problem-solving. The most effective support comes by helping them to create their own personalised sleep habits, rather than laying down the law for them.

There may well be some trial and error while they work out what works best for them, and you might want to talk to them to work out a reason that makes sense for them as to why they want to sleep more. For example, better sleep will make concentration better, meaning they can get their school work out of the way, allowing more time to socialise. Or better sleep meaning they’re more likely to look refreshed.

Practical tips to help sleep

  1. Getting outside and physically active – the natural light of day helps our body produce the melatonin (the sleep hormone) it needs at the right time for sleep.
  2. Avoid caffeine after about 3pm – this includes tea, coffee, energy drinks and cola.
  3. Don’t sleep during the day – The odd 20-minute nap is fine but more than this and sleeping at night becomes harder.
  4. Wind down before going to bed – read a book, have a warm bath or shower, and listen to some music.
  5. Try to go to bed around the same time each night.
  6. Their bed is for sleeping – falling asleep on the sofa is not.
  7. Keep electronics out of bedrooms – I know this feels like an impossible dream, especially for older teens, but it will truly make a massive difference! Get them an old fashioned alarm clock.
  8. Keep a regular wake up time – this means on weekends getting up within about two hours of the time they’d get up to go to school.
  9. Let the sunshine in! Open the curtains – sunlight reduces melatonin helping to wake up and feel alert.

Is their problem sleeping getting in the way of them being able to function in their day to day life? If not, don’t worry about it too much. Remember, young people are brilliantly resilient! If it is, you might want to consult your GP.

Being a parent to a teen or nearly teenage child is hard! Speaking to a counsellor about issues such as this can help to improve communication and make relationships stronger both in and out of the family. If this has resonated with you, why not get in touch to see how I can help.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People who are constantly rushing, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted as a result. I specialise in relationships, family issues and parenting teens and tweens. Contact me for a free initial chat by phone.

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