How to Fall Asleep for Teens Who Are Uncomfortable

Four Methods:Setting the ToneSupplementing Your Nighttime RoutineGetting HelpMaking the Most of Your Daytime Hours

Whether from rapid physical changes, busy schedules, active social lives, or incorrect views regarding sleep, teens face many challenges to getting a healthy night of rest.[1] The scary part is that the harder a time you have falling asleep, the more likely you are to struggle with mental discomfort or malaise when you’re awake.[2] Further, your body is changing more dramatically than ever before, and this may literally be keeping you up at night. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps to take in helping yourself relax, find comfort, and fall asleep.

Method 1
Setting the Tone

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    Wind down. Simply developing better “sleep hygiene” will likely lead to more ease and comfort falling asleep.[3] Make time to prepare your body and mind for sleep. Avoid exciting, strenuous, or otherwise stimulating activities just before bed. Here are a few more tips to help you wind down:
    • Don’t fall for the temptation to hang out in your bed. Don’t get in bed until you’re committed to going to sleep.[4]
    • Reduce your screen time. Turn off ALL of the screens; TV, video games, computer, and even cell phones an hour before you want to be asleep.[5]
    • Stop cramming for your test! You need sleep to perform well in class. Wrapping up the day with a more relaxing activity – such as listening to music or reading for enjoyment – will make it easier to fall asleep.[6]
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    Establish a bedtime ritual. Commit to a regular, relaxing routine just before you get in bed. This will send a cue to your body that it’s time to rest.
    • After getting homework out of the way, or concluding any other evening activities, perform your bedtime ritual in a consistent order of operations.
    • For instance, first take a shower, then dim the lights, brush your hair, read for 20 minutes, and turn out the light. Choose an order of operations that you prefer; it’s the consistency that matters.
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    Establish a regular sleep schedule. Adjust temperature and lighting to help with this. Keep the lights dim in the evening hours, and make your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.[7] Further:
    • Don’t sleep in too late on the weekends. Binging on sleep will disrupt your internal body clock.
    • Let in the morning sunlight! This will help you wake up, and will keep your body clock calibrated.
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    Visualize your happy place. Count sheep. Imagine yourself calmly sitting in your favorite fantasy realm. Whatever works! Here are some ideas:
    • Picture a beautiful outdoor vista you’ve seen or would like to see someday. Imagine the associated sounds and smells. Feel the breeze on your skin. (And start dreaming!)
    • Try softly playing the audio of the setting you're envisioning. Avoid audio with words or other distractions elements. Look for an ambient, calming sound.

Method 2
Supplementing Your Nighttime Routine

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    Take an Epsom salt bath. “Growing pains” are a very real part of your teenage years. Adding Epsom salt to a bath before bed can greatly soothe any aches and pains you’re dealing with. Simply soaking in warm water can help relax muscle, loosen stuff joints, and even fight insomnia.[8] When using Epsom salt: [9]
    • Fill the bathtub with very warm water that is comfortable to the touch.
    • Add 1-2 cups of Epsom salt while the water is running, the aid in dissolution.
    • Soak whatever part of your body hurts for at least 12 minutes. Enjoy the opportunity to relax.
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    Take over-the-counter pain medication. Reserve this step for when you have pain that keeps you awake at night. Talk to a health care provider about what medicine makes the most sense for someone your age. They will likely recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen, though your age, weight, and level of development will dictate what the safest choice and dosage is for you.[10]
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    Exercise lightly. Gentle, restorative yoga or stretching can help with the discomfort associated with your teenage years.[11] These types of exercise can also calm you down and prepare your body for rest.[12] Signing up for a weekly yoga class, or watching yoga videos are good ways to learn some poses. Some of each are geared specifically towards teens. Poses where you fold forward, either upright or on the ground, can be particularly helpful in calming you down.[13]
    • Breathe with purpose. Whatever the pose, breathing is an important aspect of yoga. A 1:2 pattern is great for relaxation; exhale for 2x the count of your inhale, in whatever increment feels most natural. For instance, if your natural inhale is 3 counts, exhale for six counts. Increase these numbers as you relax. Even without doing a pose, this simple breathing exercise will calm you down.[14]
    • Try a forward fold. From an upright, standing position, fold forward as far as it is comfortable to do so, exhaling and extending your spine. Slide your hands down and around to the back of your legs. As you inhale, straighten your back to a horizontal position, sliding your hands towards the back of your knees. Push your chest gently down through your arms. Exhale and bend back down, hands on the back of your legs all the while. Keep the knees slightly bent throughout the routine, and allow the head to hang loosely when you’re folded forward. After six folds, hold a downwards forward fold for ten breaths, using the 1:2 breathing method.[15]
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    Take a natural sleep aid. This will help primarily with restlessness that is not recurring. Take note of these in particular:[16]
    • Melatonin is a hormone associated with sleepiness, and can be taken as a supplement. Do not take melatonin before puberty, or in the early stages of puberty. However, since melatonin production kicks in later in the day for teens (around 1AM, as opposed to 10PM for adults), this supplement may work especially well teenagers. Take the lowest dose that works for you, and do not consistently use melatonin to help you fall asleep.
    • Passionflower is a plant that is effective in fighting restlessness, anxiety, and over-active bedtime mindsets. Drink passionflower tea 30 minutes before bed if you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, or stress about relationships, school, or anything else.
    • Chamomile is another plant that can be used to aid in falling asleep. Chamomile tea is widely available, and the best way to consume this plant. Drink it 30 minutes before bed.
    • Do NOT take Valerian root. Though this is one of the most common natural sleep-aids, it is not recommended for teens. This root can actually cause restlessness in young people.

Method 3
Getting Help

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    Consider getting help. Even professionals struggle with determining the cause of teens’ frequent inability to fall asleep. Doctors and counselors can help find ways to deal with any stress or physical health issues that may be causing nighttime discomfort.[17]
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    See a sleep specialist. If you’re having trouble falling asleep for more than a couple weeks, it’s going to start to effect you’re health and happiness. There are professionals that have the specific knowledge and resources to help![18] They can also help identify the following potential reasons for nighttime discomfort:
    • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Common in teens, off-kilter body clocks can cause daytime sleepiness and nighttime alertness. You may want to talk to a professional if you experience several of the following:
      • Trouble getting to sleep until very late at night.
      • Trouble getting up in the morning.
      • Sleeping very late sometimes.
      • Falling asleep during the day. (1 out of 5 high school students fall asleep in class on their typical day.)[19]
    • Emotional problems. Lots of teens experience emotional swings and rapid shifts in mood. In fact, 10% of teens have insomnia related to anxiety or depression.[20] These can lead to discomfort when trying to fall asleep, and even depression, which can greatly disrupt your sleep.
    • Restless leg syndrome (RLS). Yes, this is a real thing! An irresistible inclination to move one’s legs, usually happening at bedtime, is an issue that some people deal with. If you’re worried you may have RLS, speak with a professional![21]
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    Help yourself! Be aware of the present moment. A great way to do this is meditation. With sufficient focus, your body will physically respond with a “relaxation response,” a calming and rest-inducing state. Here are the basic steps:[22]
    • Choose something to focus on that is calming. There are many options in this regard.
      • The classic choice is simply your breath.
      • Make a soft, gentle, continuous noise if you’d like.
      • Repeat a short phrase, or even one positive word, out loud or in your head. Try “I am calm.”
    • Let go. By emphasizing something that is definitively in the present, keep your mind from worrying about elements of the future or the past. When your mind wanders, don’t be bothered, just return your mind to whatever you’re focusing on.

Method 4
Making the Most of Your Daytime Hours

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    Don’t nap too much. Napping may also disrupt your internal body clock and prevent you from getting quality rest at night. Keep naps under an hour or it will make it harder to fall asleep.[23]
    • Some sleep professional even recommend keeping your naps under 20 minutes![24] If you usually nap during the day, but have trouble sleeping at night, try shortening the duration of your naps.
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    Exercise. Working out during the day - whether going for a jog, playing a recreational sport, or hitting the gym – will help you fall asleep later on. (Again, avoid strenuous activity in the few hours prior to going to bed.)[25]
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    Eat right. A proper diet is vital to healthy living, including healthy sleeping.
    • Eat breakfast. Fruit and whole grains are great options. Start your day with energy, and prevent the urge to overeat later in the day.
    • Cut the evening caffeine. Don’t drink or eat sources of caffeine (including soda and chocolate) after 4:00 pm.[26]
    • Eat a bedtime snack. Keep it light, but a snack before bed can help you fall asleep more easily. Try a glass of milk, a small bowl of cereal, or ½ of a sandwich.[27] Do not eat a large meal within two hours of bedtime, however, as this can decrease your comfort and interrupt your sleep.[28]
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    Act right. Your teenage years are likely full of experimentation. The decisions you make, including staying up late, will affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of the sleep you get.
    • Maintain a healthy concept of sleep. Remember: you need more sleep at this point in your life than you will in adulthood. A lack of sleep now can detrimentally effect your mood and focus during the day. [29] Get rested, so you can pursue the future you want with energy and positivity.
    • Watch your vice consumption. Tobacco products are stimulants, and will negatively affect the quality of the sleep you get. Alcohol is a sedative, and it may make you feel sleepy, but it prevents deep sleep and can cause you to wake up during the night.[30]
    • Clean your room. Classic, right? (At least open the window!) Ventilate your room to make sure air is circulating; clean, fresh oxygen is vital to comfortable and refreshing sleep.[31]

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Categories: Better Sleeping