A Better Brain Through Sleep


by Danelle Spence



Teenager Waking Up After Restful Sleep

Adolescents need good, restorative sleep (at least 9 hrs a night) in order to manage the everyday stressors that being a teenager can bring. Part of how to get high-quality sleep is by having good sleep etiquette. Adolescents should (ideally) take an hour before bed to begin a healthy sleep routine. Here are some suggestions:

  • Shut down ALL electronics 2 hours before bed. Anything, where they have to react or respond to something, stimulates the brain – this is not good for them right before bed. The TV is okay, a paperback book is better. The LED lights from electronics suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone required for sleep.
  • Adolescents should not have phones or computers in their rooms at night. They cannot regulate their use of technology (they will very likely attend to the text ‘bing’ they hear at 2 am).
  • Adolescents need time to reflect upon their day, figure out how they did, what they would have done differently, etc….If they rush from supper, to practice, to homework, to bed…they don’t get an opportunity for this healthy self-reflection.
  • Adolescents NEED the recommended 9-10 hrs of sleep per night. This allows their brain to consolidate their learning, process the events of the day and to increase problem-solving & self-soothing capabilities.
  • A bedtime routine should include soothing and settling behaviours vs. stimulating behaviour. A warm bath, dimming the lights, stretching, deep breathing, warm tea…all prepare the body and brain for sleep mode.
  • Pay attention to signs of sleep deprivation: lethargy, decreased mood, falling asleep midday, falling asleep too fast at night…these are all signs that your child may need support with their sleep.
  • Bedtime is also the time that many adolescents say they “can’t shut their brains off”.

Here are some additional ideas on how to help them “quiet” their brains:

  • Notice them, sit with them, tend to them.
  • Engage with them on an emotional level.
  • Explore their worries, fears, etc. Listen, really listen!
  • Lastly, brainstorm possible solutions and an action plan they can try to implement the following day. This will encourage self-efficacy, build confidence and settles the brain better for sleep.

If these tips and strategies don’t help…do seek psychological or medical advice to weed-in or weed-out other factors that may be getting in your child’s way of acquiring good, restorative sleep. You can also contact me if you have any other comments or questions.

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About the Author

Danelle Spence

Danelle Spence is a Registered Psychologist with a passion for helping teens effectively manage emotional distress and helping their parents’ understand the complex and developing teenage brain.

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