Sleep deprived? Try these 6 things to improve your sleep habits
How many of you reading this are really tired right now? We bet almost all of you. That’s because most teenagers are woefully sleep deprived and walking around in a constant state of fatigue.
According to Johns Hopkins University, teens need 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep a night — an hour more than you needed when you were around age 10. Unfortunately, after puberty many teens’ circadian rhythms change, making it hard for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m., and since many schools start at 8 a.m. or earlier, it’s inevitable that many teens aren’t getting the sleep they need.
But just because lack of sleep is common, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. In fact, being sleep deprived can have serious consequences on your mental and physical health, leading to irritability, illness, weight gain, falling asleep while driving and not being able to concentrate at school.
So what can you do? You could petition your school to change what time classes start in the morning, but that could take a while to see through. In the meantime, here are six things you can do to make sure you get as good of a night’s sleep as possible:
- Take a nap in the afternoon
If you find that you’re exhausted by the time you get home from school, allow yourself a 30 to 45 minute nap before dinner. This will give you more energy to get your homework done, and it won’t throw off your circadian rhythms as much as sleeping in will (besides, you can’t really sleep in on school days anyway).
- Don’t stay up late on the weekends
It may be tempting to stay up late on Fridays and Saturdays, but staying up late a few days a week can throw off your body clock for the entire rest of the week. Instead, stick to a consistent bedtime every night, so your body naturally knows when it’s time to go to sleep. The same is true of sleeping in. According to Dennis Rosen, a doctor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, sleeping in more than an hour past your usual wake-up time can throw your body clock off as well, so it’s best to try to stick to the same sleep schedule every day.
- Turn off your screens
Do you watch TV or check your phone right before bed? If so, the blue light from your screen could be keeping you awake. The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, TVs and computers decreases our body’s production of melatonin, which controls our circadian rhythm. As such, experts recommend turning off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime. (That means you have to have your homework done early!) And if you do need to check your phone before you go to bed, try installing a blue light filter app such as Night Shift, which automatically adjusts the intensity of the light for the day or night.
- Have a bedtime routine
Our bodies crave routine, so one of the best things you can do to prepare for sleep is complete the exact same activities in the exact same order every night. You might want to spend a few minutes reading a book, journaling, or listening to some relaxing music before you get in your pajamas, brush your teeth, and go to sleep. Pick a few things that help you calm down and stick to them every night.
- Cut down on caffeine
When you’re tired, reaching for that iced coffee or Red Bull seems like a lifeline that will get you through your day. But in fact, even though caffeine may make you feel awake in the short-term, it can actually have a big impact on your sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of five to six hours, so a coffee that you drink at 4 p.m. will still be keeping you wired by 10 p.m. Instead of using caffeine, try drinking water. Dehydration can make you feel more fatigued, so the more water you drink, the more alert you’ll feel!
- Try meditation
Do you ever get into bed on time but have a hard time falling asleep? If you’re lying in bed worried about something that might happen the next day or reliving moments from your day in your head, you may want to try meditating for a few minutes at night before you lie down in bed. Simply set your timer for a few minutes (you can start out with as little as two or three minutes and gradually increase the time), and then close your eyes and count your breaths. Try to focus on your breath and let go of any thoughts. Just a few minutes should make you feel calmer and better able to go to sleep.
Try a few of these tips and let us know if you feel more rested and alert during the day!