As students prepare to return to school next week, it is a good time for parents to discuss sleep habits with their teenagers. A 3am to noon summer sleep schedule will require considerable adjustments to make sure teenagers obtain the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night to recharge. The early morning wake-up calls will leave most teens short on sleep during the school week. It has been shown that two-thirds of teens fail to get 8 hours of sleep on school nights. This chronic sleep loss can hinder teens’ academic performance. It also increases the risk of health and safety problems among teens. These health risks include depression, suicidal thoughts and drowsy driving.

What can parents do? Here are five tips to help parents promote healthy sleep in teens:
  • Promote a consistent sleep-wake schedule. Your body functions best when you keep a regular routine. Encourage your teen to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning.
  • Let in morning light. Open the blinds or curtains in the morning to expose your teen to bright sunlight. This light is a timing cue for the body that helps promote alertness.
  • Ban devices from the bedroom. Ensure that your teen’s bedroom is a quiet, relaxing sleep environment. Keep electronic devices such as the TV, video game system, computer and tablet out of your teen’s bedroom.
  • Set a communication curfew. Set a reasonable time after which your teen can no longer send text messages, check emails and social media, or talk on the phone. Ensure that your teen silences all communication notifications during sleep.
  • Model healthy sleep habits. Parents should emphasize the importance of healthy sleep habits by modeling good sleep hygiene. Consult this document to view a list of healthy sleep habits for adults.

Teens who regularly struggle to fall asleep at night or stay awake during the day may have a sleep illness. Parents can get help for a teen’s sleep problems by consulting a psychologist trained in the assessment and treatment of sleep disorders.

Christine Arsenault