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Strategies to Overcome Sleep Deprivation

October 15, 2013

At this point, I know you’re clear on how important Sleep is to your teenager’s body and brain . . . even though your teen may not agree.  You also know that if your teenager gets the right amount of Sleep, his or her academic achievement, health and wellbeing will improve.  You are also aware that there is medical and scientific evidence that teens need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of Sleep to be at the top of their game academically and in all other areas of life.  Finally, you know the causes and consequences of Sleep deprivation.  So what’s next?

I think it’s best to first acknowledge that we must get our teens to buy into the notion that they cannot function well long-term if they don’t get adequate shut-eye.  I know just how difficult this is going to be for some parents and their teens.  Some of our sons and daughters depleted their Sleep reserve and have been running on “empty” for a very long time.  Moving from as few as 6.0 to 8.5 hours of Sleep each night is a foreign concept to them and one they may resist with every inch of their Sleep deprived bodies.

The Ground Rules

Sheila_LyonHall_Bare_Feet_20131021First let’s be clear about one thing – you cannot force your teenager to Sleep.  That’s not possible … and you can’t sedate him or her either.  Instead, you’re going to teach your teenager to “self-manage” and learn the skills necessary to get the Sleep they need.  You will begin by teaching your teen some “basic” skills in time management and self-discipline.  Ultimately, you will help your son or daughter have an “Opportunity to Sleep” the required number of hours to sustain good health and wellbeing.

Time Management – The goal is to teach your teen to determine how long it will take to complete a task and develop the skill to complete the task within that timeframe.  Our teens will learn to start a task early, stay focused and not procrastinate.  If they master these basic time management techniques, they will burn less and less Midnight Oil.

Self-Discipline – The goal is to help your teen develop Sleep habits that support getting a good night’s rest.  Teenagers will eventually establish a regular bedtime routine to unwind at night before bedtime.  This will signal their body that it’s time to Sleep.

Launch Operation “Get More ZZZ’s!”

Hopefully, you’ve been sharing what you’ve learned about Sleep deficiency with your teenager.  If you have, he or she won’t be surprised when you announce the new project that The Family will start together – Operation “Get More ZZZ’s!”  Although this will be a family affair, your teenager is the focus of the Project.  Now I’m going to outline responsibilities between You (the parent) and your Son or Daughter (the teenager).

Parental Responsibilities:

  • Establish two new curfews:  “IN-BEDROOM” curfew and “LIGHTS OUT” curfew.  The IN-BEDROOM curfew means your teen is confined to his or her bedroom.  The LIGHTS OUT curfew is when the bedroom goes dark.  Enforce both curfews.
  • Help your teen adopt a good “Sleep Hygiene” regimen that allows him or her to prepare for Sleep.  “Sleep Preparation” includes such things as cutting off all communication outside the house one hour before bedtime; shutting off or removing all electronic apparatuses (e.g., computer, television, electronic games, etc.) from your teenager’s bedroom before your “IN-BEDROOM” curfew.
  • Create a calm family atmosphere around bedtime.
  • Do not allow your teenager to fall asleep while watching TV.
  • Allow your teen to go to bed a bit later on weekends, but he or she must get up within two or three hours of his or her week day “wake-up routine” on both Saturday and Sunday.  DO NOT ALLOW YOUR TEEN TO “SLEEP BINGE” ON THE WEEK-END. 
  • Remind your teen not to take naps.  If he or she must nap, make it 30-45 minute intervals.

Teenager Responsibilities:

  • Try to do the same things every night before you go to bed.
  • Go to bed the same time each night and wake up around the same time every morning.  You can deviate on weekends only in this way:  You can “sleep in” two or three hours on Saturday and Sunday.  DO NOT SLEEP BINGE!
  • If you MUST take a nap … DO NOT SLEEP MORE THAN 30-45 MINUTES.
  • Stretch a bit and Breathe deeply before getting into bed at night.
  •  Avoid food and drinks that contain caffeine – soda, coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.  Limit your intake of fermented foods such as cheddar cheese, pepperoni and salami.  These foods contain tyrosine, which some research shows keeps people awake.
  • Get some form of cardiovascular exercise every day, but avoid vigorous exercise at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Eat less sugar before bed, as sugar can cause sudden rises in blood sugar.  Teens will wake up in the middle of the night when their blood sugar drops low.
  • Make your bed as comfortable as possible.  Indulge yourself!
  • Keep your room on the “cool” side – 60 degrees.
  • When you get up in the morning, get your body into bright light.

The Bottom Line

There is a lot of truth to what we’ve all heard:

Teens do what they SEE parents DO – not what they HEAR parents SAY.

Your teenager will have greater success in overcoming Sleep Deprivation … if YOU are a good role model.  So be sure YOU make getting sufficient Sleep a priority.

If you would like a more expansive look at the issue of Sleep deprivation in teenagers, you can get a copy of my book that delves more deeply into the subject.  The book will be available on November 4.

As always … Leave your thoughts or questions on the Comment form below.  I read and respond to each Comment.  You can also use the form to just say Hello and let me know you’re here.

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This week we will deal with the issue of teenagers experimenting with, using and abusing Drugs.  I hope you’ll hang with me as we unravel some of the Myths and Facts about Drugs.  Even if there is no sign that your son or daughter is involved with Drugs, it is important that you, as a parent, are fully informed and have conversations with your teen about such “hot button” topics as Drugs and Sex.

NEW Blog Topic!  “Teenagers: Experimenting, Using and Abusing Drugs”   (October 21) 



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