If your son isn’t getting enough sleep it can have a negative impact on his mental health. Follow the steps below to protect your sons sleep.
- Have a Bedtime Routine
- Remove TV/Computer From his Room
- Turn Off Screens 1-2 hours Before Bed
- Charge Devices in a Common Area
- Keep Sleep and Wake Times Consistent
- Reserve Bed for Sleeping
- Limit Daytime Naps
- Limit Sugar and Caffeine in the Afternoon
- Ensure his Room is Dark and Cool
- Dim the Lights in the Evening
- Exercise 3+ Hours Before Bed
New evidence is demonstrating how crucial sleep is for our mental and physical health. One study of children and adolescents with depression found that those who suffered from insomnia (inability to sleep) and hyper-somnia (sleeping too much) were far more likely to have severe and long-lasting depression.
Even more concerning is how sleep loss can increase suicide risk as it makes people’s emotions more negative and impairs their judgment. If you want to learn more about the function and importance of sleep read Why We We Sleep. Here is a step by step guide to help ensure your son has the best possible chance for getting restorative sleep.
Have a bedtime routine
Help your son come up with rituals and routines he does every night before bed. This will help prep his brain for sleep and wind down from the day. This could include anything that is relaxing to him like showering, reading, listening to music, or meditating/praying.
Remove TV/COmputer from his bedroom
If your son struggles with sleeping the temptation to watch TV or go online when he’s feeling bored trying to fall asleep will be almost impossible to resist. Make life easier for him by removing these barriers to healthy sleep. If he likes to fall asleep with the TV on use a white noise machine or audio recording of relaxing sounds instead.
Turn off screens 1-2 hours before bed
Screens emit blue light which mimics sunlight. If your son is on his phone, or watching TV late at night it will cause his brain to think that it’s daytime and prevent the release of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep inducer. If you feel unable to control his screen use read my article on How to Limit Your Son’s Screen Time.
Charge devices in a common area
Charge his devices outside his room and use an alarm clock instead of his phone to wake up. This will help him resist the urge to check his phone at night. If he likes to fall asleep watching TV you can give him a radio alarm clock and let him listen to it while he falls asleep.
Keep sleep and wake times consistent
Teenagers need about 8-10 hours of sleep but typically don’t feel tired until later than most adults. It’s ok if your son isn’t sleepy until 11 or 12. The most important thing is to ensure that there is an 8-10 hour window from his bedtime and waking time. Once his sleep window is decided, stick to it, and get him out of bed the same time every day.
Reserve bed for sleeping
Neuroscientists often say that “neurons that fire together wire together”. This means that If your son uses his bed for gaming, scrolling on his phone, or lying awake it will signal to his brain that bed is for activities not for sleep. Encourage him to only use his bed for sleeping at night.
Limit daytime naps
Napping during the day will reduce sleep pressure and prevent restorative sleep at night. Napping after lunch for up to 40 minutes is OK as there is a natural dip in wakefulness at that time in humans. This is why many cultures have an afternoon siesta (nap) as part of their daily routine.
Limit sugar and caffeine in the afternoon
Caffeine has a half-life of 7 hours meaning if your son consumes a cup at 3 in the afternoon 50% of it will still be in his system at midnight. Don’t let him consume any coffee, tea or energy drinks afternoon. In addition, limit sugar intake two hours before bedtime as this spikes blood sugar and energy levels making sleep more difficult.
Ensure his room is dark and cool
When we sleep our body temperature drops which is why it’s difficult to sleep when it’s hot. Ensure his room is cool and as dark as possible as this will give him the best opportunity for healthy restorative sleep.
Dim the lights in the evening
If you have dimmers use them, turn off any TV’s and turn off any unnecessary lights in the hours leading up to bedtime. This will help trigger the natural release of dopamine in his brain the body’s sleep inducer.
Exercise 3+ hours before bed
If your son can exercise this will fatigue his body making sleep easier. However he shouldn’t exercise in the 3 hours before bed as this will stimulate his body and brain making sleep more difficult.
If you have followed these steps and your son is still having trouble sleeping, go to your family doctor for a referral to a sleep specialist. The most effective treatment for sleep disorders is CBT for insomnia. Sleeping pills may help sleep in the short term, but they have negative side effects and lose their potency over time often resulting in increasing dosages and dependency issues.
What have you found helpful in making sure your son gets enough sleep? If you have any questions or helpful advice feel free to leave a comment below.