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Why is enough sleep important?

As a teenager you need about 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep improves your concentration, school performance, athletic performance, driving reaction time, and overall physical health.

  • Falling asleep during class?
  • Have trouble waking up in the morning?
  • Feel increasingly moody?
  • Having trouble concentrating?

… These are all signs that you need to work on getting more sleep!

Here’s how…

Plan for your sleep – Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps your body create a sleep pattern. Adhering to this schedule on the weekends is important too! Try not to sway more than 2-3 hours away from your weekday sleep schedule.

Be Active – Getting at least 60 min of exercise everyday can help you achieve a sounder sleep. Physical activity tends to decrease stress and you feel more relaxed. Make sure you finish up exercising at least 3 hours before you go to bed…otherwise you may have too much energy to fall asleep.

Avoid stimulants – Foods or drinks containing caffeine too close to bedtime can make falling asleep much harder than usual. Try to avoid eating or drinking these items after 4 pm. Also beware hidden of caffeine sources (e.g. Mountain Dew, energy drinks, Starbucks Refreshers). Any activity that gets your heart racing and your body moving can act as a stimulant as well. Things like suspenseful/scary movies or shows, cellphone/internet usage, and even thrilling books can prevent you from falling asleep. Try to avoid these heart pumping activities at least an hour before you go to bed.

Avoid screentime for at least 60 minutes before bedtime. Screens, and all that they connect you to, can be stimulating and thus make it harder to fall asleep. It is also a good idea to avoid reading and doing homework in bed, as these activities can get your brain used to being awake in bed.

Try to relax –Listen to soothing music, dim the lights, take a hot shower or bath, and get comfy. Try to find a place to sleep that is away from interruptions and loud noises. If you can’t avoid these places, you can try to use white noise or nature sounds to block out the disturbing noise.

Track your naps – Napping more than 30 min during the day can interfere with your sleep time at night. Naps may provide you with more energy to get through the day, but they can make it difficult to fall asleep at night. If you routinely nap, that is likely a sign that you are just not getting enough sleep at night!

If you wake up at night and cannot fall asleep on a regular basis, if it routinely takes you more than 30 min to fall asleep, or if you are always tired then you should come see us!

Why can’t I sleep!?!?

Your biological clock – As a teenager your body goes through numerous physical and chemical changes. One of these changes is the way your hormones are produced. Melatonin, produced by your brain, happens to be released later at night as a teenager compared to children and older adults. The timing of this production causes your body to want to go to bed later and sleep in the next morning.

Stress – Stress is a huge factor when it comes to falling and staying asleep. Emotions, physical discomfort (like being sick or in pain), an overloaded daytime schedule, and an uncomfortable sleep environment can create more stress on your sleep cycle. The inability to stay or fall asleep is classified as insomnia. Occasional insomnia is okay and normal, but when it becomes chronic and frequent it may require treatment from your doctor.

Illness/GERD – Sleep is extra important for your body’s recovery process when you are sick and not feeling well. However, sometimes it is hard to sleep when you have a stuffy nose or an upset stomach. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a health condition that can affect how your body feels as well. Reflux happens when stomach acid moves upwards in the esophagus, causing an uncomfortable burning sensation (heartburn). Usually these symptoms can worsen when lying down and can disrupt the sleep cycle.

Nightmares – Everyone may experience nightmares from time to time. Certain triggers can cause nightmares…drugs, alcohol, sleep deprivation, medications, stress, anxiety.

Sleepwalking – Sleepwalking is not very common among teens. It is more common in younger children, but can run in a family. Factors that can increase the instance of or cause sleepwalking include stress, illness, and sleep deprivation. Usually a sleepwalker does not remember that they have been sleepwalking and will end up back in their bed at the end of the night. If you encounter someone who is actively sleepwalking, try not to wake them up … this may startle and scare them. Help guide them around any obstacles they may encounter and back to their bed safely.

Food/Drugs/Alcohol – Things you put in your body, like medications, alcohol, and food can affect how you sleep as well. Foods that contain caffeine, sugar, or stimulants can prevent you from falling asleep if you’ve eaten them late in the day. Some medications and alcohol can act as depressants and have a sedating effect, but actually result in more awakenings during the night. Talk to your doctor about possible side effects from medications you are currently taking.