Q: My teen has been having a lot of sleep problems lately. What can I do to help?

Answer: Many teens find it difficult to rest before bed. This can prevent them from getting the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. Not surprisingly, many teens I talk to report difficulty concentrating at school, daytime drowsiness, and fatigue.

Adolescents often have more trouble sleeping than when they were younger. Rapid body changes, especially in adolescence, can disrupt sleep. This is because the growth phase they are in causes their circadian rhythm – the body’s internal clock – to be restored, delaying their sleep cycle.

Stress, anxiety and worry are other common causes for sleep problems. Teenagers are facing more stress lately, interrupting their rest and recovery overnight. Using a smartphone and social networking late at night, as well as sports or other physical activities close to bedtime, can make it harder to fall asleep.

Other causes of sleep problems include health conditions such as iron deficiency. Adolescents who do not have enough of this mineral may have symptoms such as cramps and involuntary movements in their legs that may wake them from sleep. If your doctor thinks your child may have this problem, he or she will usually order a hemoglobin, ferritin and / or iron test panel to check.

Sleep is vital for everyone, especially growing children, developing and teens. Children who get enough sleep tend to have healthier immune systems and better memory, school performance and mental health.

Lack of adequate sleep can lead to many problems, including difficulty concentrating, low energy, mood swings, headaches, weight problems, and behavioral problems.

Lack of sleep can also affect a part of a teenager’s developing brain that helps control impulses. This may be why sleep deprivation is associated with higher rates of risky behaviors such as messages while driving, quarreling, substance use, and unsafe sexual behavior in adolescents.

Try these tips to help your teen sleep better:

Encourage daily exercise and time outside: Exercise can help your teen sleep better. Children of all ages should move throughout the day and have plenty of physical activity. That said, try to avoid sports practices and other types of exercises late in the evening so that you have time to relax. Spending some time outside each day can also support a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

Avoid Excessive Planning: Having too much on the plate can make it difficult for your teen to get enough sleep. If they run from one after-school activity to another, they will not be able to finish homework late at night. We all need time to relax at the end of the day to help us sleep well.

Reduce bedtime screens: Blue light from phones, computers, tablets, televisions, and even night lights can trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime. Over time, this can disrupt your teen’s natural levels of melatonin, a chemical that tells us we are drowsy. Encourage your teen to remove all screens at least an hour before bedtime and charge devices outside the bedroom overnight. Having screens next to them is tempting.

Limit late meals and caffeine: aim to eat dinner a few hours before bedtime and offer whole foods that are easier to digest. Food sensitivities or substances that cause indigestion can disrupt your baby’s sleep due to the close relationship between the intestines and the brain. It is important to remember that caffeine can stay in the body for more than eight hours, depending on a person’s metabolism. Your teen should avoid caffeine after lunch.

– Find time to relax: Encourage your teen to engage in relaxing activities in the evening, such as a warm bath with Epsom salts, reading an off-screen book, meditating, lying down, writing diary or yoga restorative.

– Optimize your teen’s sleeping environment: Make sure the temperature in the bedroom is cool but comfortable. A cooler room promotes sleep and reduces sweating and itching. If light bothers your teen, put on heavy or dark curtains. If noise outside your teen’s bedroom is a problem, turn on a fan, soft music, or nature sounds. Try earplugs to see if they help.

– Look at melatonin supplements. Melatonin can help restore your teens’ circadian rhythm so they can sleep at a normal time. Typically, melatonin can be given for a short time and in very small doses (0.3 to 0.5 mg) about 3 hours before bedtime.

– Consider therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help your teen manage stress and anxiety, nurture their talents, and achieve a normal sleep-wake cycle. There is also a specialized form of CBT for people with insomnia called CBT-I. Digital CBT-I applications, such as CBT Coach, have been shown to be effective in treating insomnia in adolescents.

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