How to Sleep Well if You Are a Teenager

Four Parts:Preventing Teen Sleep DeprivationAvoiding Bad Sleep HabitsTroubleshooting Sleep DifficultiesGetting the Facts About Teen Sleep Deprivation

Medical professionals say teens should receive eight to 10 hours of sleep nightly. The National Sleep Foundation discovered that only 15% of teenagers reported getting eight-and-a-half hours on school nights.[1] The negative side-effects of teen sleep deprivation include increased feelings of depression, chronic headaches, and difficulty focusing in school. For these reasons, it is necessary that teens develop and maintain healthy sleep habits during high school and college.

Part 1
Preventing Teen Sleep Deprivation

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    Clean your room. We sleep better in clean, attractive spaces. Studies indicate that decorating bedroom spaces with flowers has a positive impact on mood when waking. [2] Your room should be a cool, calm environment.
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    Plan a sleep ritual. Given how hectic teen lives can be, creating a sleep ritual is necessary to ensure a good night's sleep.[3] Consider the following when designing a sleep ritual:
    • Turn down lighting. This reminds your body that it is night and triggers natural circadian rhythms that help you get sleepy.[4] Wear sunglasses in the afternoons and evenings to decrease exposure to bright light.[5]
    • Have a snack. Going to bed hungry prevents sleep; however, eating too much keeps you awake via digestion. Have a glass of milk or a piece of toast. Ensure that feelings of hunger are suppressed, but don't eat to be full.
    • Dress seasonally. If it's winter, wear warm sleep attire; if it's summer, consider a t-shirt and cotton shorts. Don't dress in layers, as this can bind movement and require waking up to remove clothing.
    • Keep your room cool. It's better if your room is cooler rather than warmer, as this can help trigger the cooling cycle your body follows during normal sleep.
    • Avoid refined sugar before bed. Processed sugar causes a spike in blood sugar, followed by a drop that can wake you up in the middle of the night.
    • Avoid exercise within two hours of bedtime. This increases heart rate and metabolism, decreasing sleepiness.
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    Pick a bedtime and wake up time. These depend on what time you start your day.
    • Aim for at least eight hours of sleep but no more than 10, as this can disrupt your sleep schedule and make you feel groggy.
    • Maintain your schedule even on weekends, making it easier to keep a sleep schedule on school days.
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    Set an alarm. Once in a sleep pattern, you may wake up without an alarm; however, at first, it's good to ensure you wake on time.
    • Deep sleepers can set multiple alarms or procure a very loud alarm; however, for the typical sleeper, a simple alarm clock or phone app works.
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    Sleep on your right-side. Research shows that sleeping on your right side increases positive dreaming, decreasing mood dysfunction the following day.
    • Purchase a body pillow for your left side to shape your sleep posture and keep you on the right.[6]
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    Wake up well. How and when you start the day is the first step toward a healthy sleep pattern and promotes your reliance on natural circadian rhythms.
    • Don't press Snooze. When your body wakes, returns to sleep, then wakes again a few minutes later, dissonance is created (called "sleep inertia"). This increases grogginess which lasts up to two 2 hours after waking. To avoid snoozing, put your alarm on the other side of the room, forcing you to get out of bed to turn it off.[7]
    • Open the curtains. Morning light between the hours of 6 to 10 am triggers melatonin release and has an antidepressant effect. It also helps trigger natural circadian rhythms, contributing the wakefulness.[8]
    • Take a warm shower. Raising body temperature increases circulation, contributing to wakefulness. Still find yourself feeling groggy? End your shower with a cool rinse.
    • Have breakfast. Remember that your body has been without food for eight to 10 hours. Having breakfast increases alertness and prevents midday sleepiness that can lead to impaired sleep at night.

Part 2
Avoiding Bad Sleep Habits

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    Power down electronic devices. Light given off by electronics like phones, computers and televisions increases wakefulness and prevents sleep. Give your brain a chance to wind down by powering down electronics at least an hour before bed.[9] Do your best to keep all light-emitting devices out of your bedroom.
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    Don't sleep with the lights on. Get some light blocking curtains or a sleep mask for your eyes. When we sleep or dream in mild to moderate light, we wake up feeling less rested and more depressed than we ordinarily would. [10]
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    Embrace silence. Turn off music before bed. If there are other noises keeping you awake, consider earplugs.
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    Remember that beds are for sleeping. Avoid reading, studying, writing, or drawing while in bed as these contribute to wakefulness and create an association with your bed other than sleep.[11]
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    Avoid long naps. If, in spite of getting the required amount of sleep, you are still tired, take a power nap for 15–30 minutes. It is important not to nap longer as it increases tiredness and prevents meeting evening bedtime goals.[12]
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    Avoid caffeine. Caffeine, even in small doses, can prevent the body from sleeping, especially when taken after morning hours. If you notice that caffeine seems to have a negative impact your your sleep, cut it out of your diet, or only consume drinks that are "caffeine-free."

Part 3
Troubleshooting Sleep Difficulties

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    Visualize a relaxing place. Imagine a restful, pleasant place. It could be a museum, a park, or a hiking trail. Begin your walk by internally narrating the details of the place, paying attention to the color, light, shade, and tiny features of your surroundings. Remember what senses you feel when taking this walk. This activity distracts your conscious mind from the present and allows you to relax, encouraging sleep.[13]
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    Try progressive muscle relaxation. This process relieves tension and calms your thinking. Starting with your toes and, moving through your calves, thighs, glutes, abdomen, shoulders, neck, and face, squeeze the muscle groups of your body one at a time for a count of 30. Relax after each set for another count of 30.[14]
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    Do respiratory biofeedback. Biofeedback is a type of therapy for insomniacs, teaching how to overcome anxiety responses in the body and substitute voluntary, relaxation activities.[15]
    • Lay on your back and close your eyes.
    • Create an inverted triangle with your hands, lightly touching your index fingers and thumbs. Place on your stomach, below your rib cage
    • Take a slow, deep breath. Count to 10 while taking the breath.
    • Hold the breath for a count of 10.
    • Exhale for a count of 10. Repeat. During each breath, focus on your breathing. Make it even, and slow as possible. Your body will relax as you do this activity, making it easier to fall asleep.

Part 4
Getting the Facts About Teen Sleep Deprivation

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    Know which sleep disorders impact teens. Biological changes make teens and adolescents susceptible to the following sleep disorders[16]
    • Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea: caused by illness or allergies that enlarge adenoids and tonsils.
    • GERD: gastroesophageal reflux disease.[17]
    • Restless leg syndrome: Restless leg syndrome: a movement disorder, causing involuntary movement, preventing REM sleep.
    • Parasomnias: the most common are insomnia, somnambulism (sleep walking), and night terrors.
    • Bedwetting: Symptomatic of other developmental delays, it creates anxiety, preventing a child from sleeping.
    • Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome: a delay in biorhythms, meaning that even if a teen or adolescent goes to bed, it may not be possible to sleep.
    • During adolescence, the body's circadian rhythm (a kind of internal clock) is reset. This biological clock tells teens to fall asleep later at night, and then wake up later in the mornings. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night in teens than it is for kids and adults. So, teenagers really do often have a harder time falling asleep — and there's nothing they can do to change that.
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    Know the symptoms of sleep deprivation. In addition to grogginess and difficulty waking, there are physical and mental effects of sleep deprivations, such as:
    • Impaired memory and learning.[18]
    • Reduced mental health.[19]
    • Reduced academic outcomes.[20]
    • Shortened attention span.[21]
    • Impaired motor skills.[22]
    • Increased instances of acne.[23]
    • Decreased metabolism and obesity.[24]
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    Understand the long-term impact. Sleep deprivation has a profound impact on neurocognitive function, especially when this deficit occurs over the long term, and especially in adolescent and teen populations.[25]The human brain develops faculties related to logical, systematic thinking between the years of 12 to 18. These skills don't just apply to completing school work.Problem-solving is a universal cognitive skill that affects all aspects of our lives.[26] It is therefore necessary that teens develop and maintain healthy sleep habits to ensure they live up to their full potential as adults.
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    Know how to get help. If you are a teen struggling to get enough sleep, there are resources available to you that can help.
    • Talk to your parents. They can help you with the steps outlined in this article and help you get the assistance you need.[27]
    • Talk to your doctor. You may be a candidate for a sleep study to determine the presence of a sleep disorder.
    • Find online resources. The National Sleep Foundation provides resources that can help you locate sleep professionals in your area, while is written specifically for a teen audience to assist with health related concerns. To locate the most current information science offers on teen sleep hygiene, check out the American Psychological Association website.


  • Don't eat dinner within three hours of bedtime, as this can contribute to wakefulness.
  • Don't use any electronics one hour before bed if possible.
  • Pick your outfit and pack your bag ahead of time, so you go to sleep relaxed.


  • If, despite getting the recommended amount of sleep regularly, you still experience excessive sleepiness and difficulty remaining awake during daylight hours, consult a doctor.

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Categories: Better Sleeping | Health for Teens and Kids