Getting More Sleep

Young men's version of this guide
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girl sleepingBetween homework, sports, other activities, and having a social life, many teens don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is very important and can affect your health.

Why is sleep important?

Your body, including your brain, works best when you get enough sleep. You’re probably aware that you feel tired and rundown when you don’t get enough sleep. But lack of sleep also makes it harder to concentrate while at school or doing homework, or to perform your best at sports and other activities. Not getting enough sleep also slows down your reaction time and affects your ability to concentrate while driving.

What causes sleep problems?

Sleep problems can be caused by an irregular schedule, stress, (having lots of things on your mind), changes in your sleep environment (your bedroom is too hot, too cold, or too noisy), and by consuming stimulants such as caffeine too close to bedtime. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Research has shown that many teens don’t get enough sleep. This is partly due to the fact that during adolescence teens’ “circadian rhythm” (the body’s internal clock) has a tendency to shift out of sync with the external clock. Instead of releasing melatonin (a hormone) early in the evening, the brain does so much later at night which makes it harder both to fall asleep early enough to get a full 9 hours of sleep, and to wake up on time the next morning.

How much sleep do I need each night?

According to research studies, teens need an average of about 9 hours of sleep each night. Younger children need more sleep (10-11 hours a night) and adults need slightly less (7-9 hours each night).

11 Tips to Follow:

  1. No caffeine after 3pm: Avoid beverages with caffeine (soda, tea, energy drinks, etc.) especially after 3pm.
  2. Don’t go to bed hungry: Have your evening meal at least 3 hrs. before going to sleep. It’s fine to have a small bedtime snack such as a glass of milk and a few crackers but don’t have a big meal.
  3. Have a nightly routine before bed: Plan on “winding down” before you go to sleep. Begin relaxing about 1 hour before you go to bed. Try doing a quiet activity such as listening to calming music, reading a book or meditating.
  4. Turn off the TV and ALL electronics including video games, tablets, laptops, etc. 1 hour before sleep, and keep them out of the bedroom.
  5. Turn off your cell phone and all notifications (new email and text alerts) or even better, leave your phone outside your room while you sleep. Studies have shown that a part of your brain continues to respond to certain lights and sounds even while you’re sleeping.
  6. Make your bedroom quiet, dark and cool. If you can’t control the noise, try wearing earplugs or using a fan to block out other sounds.
  7. Practice relaxation techniques. Try reading a book or meditating or write a list of what you need to do the next day so you don’t have stress about remembering.
  8. Don’t nap unless you are sick: you’ll have a better night’s sleep.
  9. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana can all keep you awake. Talk to your health care provider if you need help with substance use.
  10. Most importantly, wake up at the same time every day (or within 1 hour of your usual wake up time) EVEN on the weekends. A regular wake up time promotes sleep hygiene and prevents sleep problems.
  11. Reduce exposure to bright light in the last three hours of the day before going to sleep.
Maintaining good sleep hygiene and having good sleep habits lower your risk of developing sleep problems. Getting better sleep can also improve your concentration and alertness. Try the simple steps in this guide. If you still have trouble getting enough rest, make an appointment with your health care provider.