Most teens need about 8½ to more than 9 hours of sleep each night. But about 1 in 4 teens has trouble sleeping. Lack of sleep can affect everything from our emotions to how well we focus on tasks like driving. It can affect sports performance, increase our chances of getting sick, and may be linked to weight gain in some people.
How can we get the sleep we need? Here are some ideas:
Be active during the day. You've probably noticed how much running around little kids do — and how soundly they sleep. Take a tip from a toddler and get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day. Physical activity can decrease stress and help people feel more relaxed. Just don't work out too close to bedtime because exercise can wake you up before it slows you down.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. Lots of people think that alcohol or drugs will make them relaxed and drowsy, but that's not the case. Drugs and alcohol disrupt sleep, increasing a person's chance of waking up in the middle of the night.
Say goodnight to electronics. Experts recommend using the bedroom for sleep only. If you can't make your bedroom a tech-free zone, at least shut everything down an hour or more before lights out. Nothing says, "Wake up, something's going on!" like the buzz of a text or the ping of an IM.
Keep a sleep routine. Going to bed at the same time every night helps the body expect sleep. Creating a set bedtime routine can enhance this relaxation effect. So unwind every night by reading, listening to music, spending time with a pet, writing in a journal, playing Sudoku, or doing anything else that relaxes you.
Expect a good night's sleep. Stress can trigger insomnia, so the more you agonize about not sleeping, the greater the risk you'll lie awake staring at the ceiling. Instead of worrying that you won't sleep, remind yourself that you can. Say, "Tonight, I will sleep well" several times during the day. It can also help to practice breathing exercises or gentle yoga poses before bed.
Everyone has a sleepless night once in a while. But if you regularly have trouble sleeping and you think it's affecting your mood or performance, talk to your doctor.