10 better sleep tips for teen girls

A lack of restorative sleep is considered a barrier to emotional health.  For teen girls, sleep is necessary for optimal development (physically and emotionally).  If there is a lack of peace in your home and you are noticing an increase in anger, irritability and overall crankiness, start exploring her current sleeping habits and behaviors.

Last week we talked about patterns that are cause for some alarm.  You can read more about them here.

This week let's talk about what makes for good sleep hygiene.  There are certain environmental tweaks and habits that she can begin to develop now that will help her in the future.

Remove technology - this is the #1 culprit in a poor night's sleep.  Most girls are unable to regulate this on their own.  They will stay up later and/or have more anxiety at night when using it before bed.  It is also very stimulating and can cause her to "wake up" when her body should be winding down.  Be the bad guy.  She will thank you in the long run.

A cold room - believe it or not the ideal sleeping temperature is 72 degrees or below.  This allows the body to shut down falling into a deeper sleep. A fan can be used to help get the room more chilled. 

A dark room - light wakes us up.  Even a night light can throw off just enough light to disrupt sleep.  If she has to have light on, consider trying a sleeping mask which can block the light while she sleeps.

White noise - some girls (especially with anxiety) have sensitive hearing and can be easily startled.  Using a fan or white noise machine can block out just enough of the typical "night time" noises.

Sunshine - we need time in the sun to help with melatonin production.  Many girls, especially those struggling with depression who isolate themselves inside, are not getting enough time in the sun to help with their natural sleep cycle.  Just a few minutes each day outside can help.

Napping - napping after school actually has a negative effect on their sleep cycles.  Every once in awhile is not a problem but if she is coming home every day and sleeping, she is mostly likely then staying up too late and feeling sleepy the next day.  Go a few days without the nap to break the cycle and get her back to bed at a reasonable hour.

Eating - eating right before bed or late at night can cause the body to have a hard time digesting the food and disturb sleep.

Limit sugar and caffeine - many of the girls I have worked with over the years that have difficulty sleeping also eat and drink a lot of sugar and caffeine trying to wake themselves up.  It sets up a vicious cycle and actually makes them more tired during the day and too alert at night.  The detox is brutal (lots of crankiness) but in the long term it's much better.

Only sleep in bed - It is shocking how conditioned we can become to environment and how our brains can associate behaviors with environment.  The bed should only be used for sleeping.  If not, her mind can associate other behaviors with the bed and end up keeping her up.  If she eats in bed, she can become hungry just getting in bed.  If she does a lot of homework in bed, again her mind can start to increase stress and anxiety because it thinks they are going to start doing math problems.  If possible, try and create a different space in the home to do homework, even a beanbag in her room is better. 

She should also not sleep in other areas of the home such as the couch or recliner (if she has a bed).  The quality of sleep is poor and typically there is some underlying anxiety or other reason causing her to avoid her room.

Is she over-scheduled?  I have seen a steady increase in girls involving themselves in too many activities trying to build their college resume.  This is teaching her that living life at 100mph without being present in anything she is doing is normal.  This will set her up for long term problems and potentially serious health issues related to an inability to say NO and manage stress.  Give her permission to say NO and take breaks even if it is just for a season.  This can be a difficult but necessary conversation.

Over the years I have noticed that if sleeping is problematic, it's almost impossible to improve mental health.  I try to focus on this and see if we can increase the quality of sleep.  Often once sleeping improves, their ability to handle stress gets better.

We don't value sleep enough.  Teach her now that in order to heal and restore her body from the days activity she needs to rest.  Sleep is often one of the first things we sacrifice when life gets busy but we need it and we need to make it a priority for overall functioning.  There is so much growth still happening under the surface for her and she needs the rest to grow into adulthood.

For additional info here are 2 other articles with more information - sleepfoundation.org and psychology-today