Good Grief! Your teenager went to bed at 11:00 p.m. and now he’s still asleep at 10:00 a.m. the next morning. It’s time to wake that lazy kid up and put him to work. You’re certainly not going to let your teen sleep his summer vacation away, right?

Experts Say Teenagers Need More Sleep Than Their Younger Counterparts

Actually, your teenager isn’t as lazy as you may think. According to recent scientific data compiled by the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need at least nine or more hours of sleep per night for optimal physical and mental well-being. In fact, during adolescence and the teenage years, the body needs roughly the same amount of sleep as toddlers.

Think back to those toddler years, the period of time when children make the transition between babyhood and bona-fide childhood. There are tremendous changes taking place in both their brains and physical development. Now, return to the present and it’s easy to understand that teenage-hood isn’t all that different.

Between ages 10 to 12 years, most children start going through puberty, which brings about complex changes in the body’s biochemical processes and brain development. At this stage of the game, children are more academically challenged and they may also be more involved in athletics, dance, gymnastics, and other physical activities. This combination of biology, neurological growth, and physical activity requires increased sleep time to rest, restore, and rejuvenate.

Establishing Healthy Teen Sleep Habits Is Important

According to sleep experts at UCLA Health, the sleep patterns established between ages 10 and 12 are indicative of a child’s future teen years sleep patterns. If healthy sleep patterns aren’t established during early puberty, your teenager can suffer.

Teenagers with erratic sleep patterns, or those that are susceptible to sleep disruptions are more prone to:

  • Extreme difficulty waking up and getting off to school in the morning.
  • Daytime sleepiness that interferes with academic development.
  • Insomnia.
  • Narcolepsy (when severe sleepiness causes “sleep attacks” during waking periods, or even while driving).
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders, which causes teenagers to sleep erratically at different periods of the day or night, without getting enough sound sleep.
  • Moodiness and irritability.
  • Depression.

Improving Teen Sleep Habits

When tweens and teens make the transition through puberty, their normal circadian rhythm will shift by a couple of hours. Instead of feeling sleepy around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., they will want to stay awake until 10:00 or 11:00. The problem with this shift is that they don’t have the luxury of sleeping nine to 10 hours on school nights. Thus, it’s important to help your teen establish healthy sleep patterns.

You can do this by:

  • Helping your teen understand that sleep patterns are connected to their general well-being, and how healthy it is to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Insisting on a regular 9:00 p.m. bedtime on school nights.
  • Removing typical teen sleep disruptions from their room at bedtime, including phones, gadgets, televisions, and other electronic distractions.
  • Restricting caffeinated beverages after school and in the evenings.
  • Establishing a soothing, pre-bedtime routine that is tailored for teens. A hot shower or bath, listening to soothing music, or reading non-academic material for 30 minutes are all good ideas.
  • Getting exercise on a daily basis.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet with limited amounts of processed carbs and sugars, which make it difficult to sleep at night.

Parents can help by modeling healthy sleep habits. Make sleep a priority in your household, the same way studying and healthy snacks are prioritized. Set the tone for bedtime by maintaining a calm, soothing environment, and practice what you preach. Soon the whole household will enjoy healthier sleep patterns.