Your Teen Needs More Sleep

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Your teen probably isn’t getting enough sleep – at least, that’s the conclusion of a new study from Columbia University in New York. In fact, the 2011-2012 survey found that barely one in three 18 year olds got at least seven hours of sleep – and that’s still much less than recommended by experts. This problem is very real, so let’s look at some of the things you can do to help your child get to bed on time.

Regulating the Use of Devices

The easiest way to stop a teen from sleeping is to give them a distraction – and smartphones are one of the most popular distractions because they’re both portable and powerful. Worse – as discussed by the Washington Post – the technology used in mobile devices actually makes it harder to fall asleep. Here are some of the ways you can regulate your teen’s use of any device:

1. Don’t allow the phone in their bedroom during the day.

While many teens may feel this is restrictive (expect to hear indignant lines like “But how can I pick it up if it rings!?”) doing this encourages the perception of bedrooms as a low-technology zone. That’s good – it’s easier to fall asleep in rooms associated with rest and relaxation, rather than jumping in on all the trending topics.

2. Turn the phones off at night.

That means completely off, by the way, not simply put into a low-power mode. Teens should never anticipate ‘needing’ their phone to connect with someone late at night.

3. Take the phone at night altogether.

Some teens are willing to sneak downstairs to grab their device – it’s a lot harder to do that if it’s being kept safely in their bedroom. This is a restriction that can be relaxed as a teen demonstrates maturity, but even so, monitoring software can help you ensure that your teen isn’t sneaking in use of the phone behind your back.

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In all cases, it’s best to start restrictions right away, rather than implementing them after a teen has already gotten a taste of freedom. This will help you avoid resentment and, more importantly, give your teen a goal to work towards.

Digital Readiness is about more than Smartphones

We’ve talked a lot about smartphones here, but those aren’t the only things that could be stopping your teen from getting the sleep they need. Other pressures and temptations include:

  • The presence of a personal computer, television, and/or video game console in the bedroom
  • Too many demands on their time (dealing with school work, sports, and a part-time job is challenging for any student!)
  • Social pressures (a desire to look good in their next ‘selfie’, attempts to find a date, peer pressure)
  • Personal interests and hobbies (such as watching late-night comedy shows)

If teens don’t have enough time to do everything expected of them, they can and will try to stay up—so any effort to restrict their bedtime should include a corresponding reduction in the pressures they experience. For example, you can set a timer to record their favorite shows, help them with fashion choices after school, and move their electronics out of the room.

Technology is not inherently bad, but as studies on sleep among teens have shown, there is a point where smartphones and other devices become too much of a good thing. Teens may not understand right away, but as they wake up each morning feeling refreshed and energized, they’ll realize that helping them sleep was one of the best things you could have done for them.

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