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What are the sleep requirements for teenagers?

Starting a conversation about sleep with teens can be tricky. The Positive Steps teen group have created the Sleep Quiz to help get the conversation started. Beware! You may find out that your sleep routine is not as good as you thought.

Research shows that teenagers need at least 9 hours sleep a night. During the teenage years your child’s body clock alters which means that waking and sleeping times get later and later. Generally, teenagers prefer to stay up late at night but struggle to get up in the morning. This is normal. Getting into a good routine can help with this.

What are the signs a child in my care could be struggling?

There may be a number of signs or symptoms that your child is not getting enough sleep however these could also be normal for a teenager or might be indicators for other difficulties:
• They may find it very difficult to get up in the morning for school
• They may be more irritable, may seem ‘down’
• They may appear to be lacking in energy
• Their memory might not seem to be as good as usual
• They may seem distracted or lacking concentration
• Their decision making might be impacted
• Their grades may start to slip
• You may get reports from school that they are falling asleep in lessons or their concentration is slipping

How can you support your child to improve their sleeping patterns?

There are a number of steps you can take to try and help your child improve their sleeping pattern:
• According to some research the use of screen i.e. phones, tablets and computers prior to bedtime can increase the length of time it takes to fall asleep as it affects the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Try and support your child to find a different activity before bedtime such as reading, having a soak in a warm bath, colouring etc.
• Try and encourage your child to have a regular bedtime as this will help them cope with the early mornings required for the school day.
• Support your child to have nutritious supper at least an hour prior to bedtime. Energy drinks and sugary snacks can make it more difficult to fall asleep and can increase the risk of a restless night. Also not getting the right amount of sleep can make your child gain weight
• Encourage your child to take part in some physical activity during the day or evening as this will help them feel more tired and support a better quality of sleep
• Encourage your child to talk about any concerns or worries they might have whether that is with you, another trusted adult or a friend
• Ensure your child’s bedroom isn’t too hot or too cold, that their bed is comfortable and that they are not affected by noise. Being uncomfortable can create problems going to sleep or staying asleep

Who can help?

If the self-help techniques have not helped then a GP appointment will be a starting point to explore the sleep difficulties your child is experiencing.