What do you do with a teen who can't sleep through?

Are they starting high school and still not sleeping through? Here’s what you need to know about the biology of teen sleep.

Once upon a time, sleep was one of those natural functions people didn’t need to think much about. It was just something that happened - like sunrise, or dirty nappies. But as life has become increasingly sedentary and screen-bound, we’ve experienced a rude awakening. 

Across all age groups, from babies to seniors, the pursuit of sleep has emerged as a peculiarly modern challenge. But it’s one that affects our kids - and ourselves as parents - most of all. 

A recent study of 6,640 11- to 14-year-olds published in the Medical Journal of Australia found nearly two-thirds slept less than the recommended eight to 10 hours.

Baby sleep issues are not only a bona fide epidemic today - they are big business for a vast army “sleep consultants,” a quasi-scientific profession that was unknown even a decade ago.

But the fact is, kids who are way beyond the infant and toddler years are also experiencing major sleep issues - including increasing numbers who are co-sleeping with mum and dad, as these common Google searches suggest: 

Screen Shot 2021-12-15 at 10.15.49 AM

And teen sleep problems appear to be the most pressing of all.  A recent study of 6,640 11- to 14-year-olds published in the Medical Journal of Australia found nearly two-thirds slept less than the recommended eight to 10 hours.

The impact of that lost sleep is as disturbing as it is predictable: daytime fatigue (including falling asleep in the classroom), poor concentration, general inattention and a tendency to make poor judgments.


“The parent may be thinking the teen has ADHD,” says Dr. Adiaha I.A. Spinks-Franklin, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine. But ADHD doesn’t develop suddenly in the teen years. Medication is not the answer. Sensible sleep hygiene is.

To help teens to sleep through the night (not their classes), she recommends:

  • Avoiding caffeine for at least four hours before bedtime
  • Practicing consistent bedtimes and waking times
  • Shutting down devices an hour before bedtime, to allow the secretion of sleep-inducing melatonin to take effect
  • Keeping bedrooms 100% device-free, 100% of the time (and yes, that includes phones)

“Parents are in charge,” Dr. Spinks-Franklin insists. “Parents are responsible for limits and boundaries and guidance around media use and the balance between media use and appropriate sleep.”

With Family Zone, you can set age-appropriate sleep-time limits to keep your children's screen-time healthy, on every device, everywhere.  

Create a home where your digital family can thrive, and start your free trial today.




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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online safety, sleep, attention span, ADHD, sleep deprivation, teen brain

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