One big barrier to good sleep for teens is the frequent wide variation between the times they get up on school days versus weekends. Although sleeping in may seem like a good idea, staying in bed until noon on Saturday throws a teen’s circadian rhythm out of balance. That can make it much tougher to get up early again on Monday morning and can potentially make sleep problems worse.
To help her sleep well consistently, your daughter should set a consistent wake-up time, and build her sleep schedule around it. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same time, but the wake-up time should be within a two-hour window every day. Staying consistent day to day will allow her body to get into a regular wake/sleep rhythm.
Help your daughter set routines that foster healthy sleep, too. For example, daily exercise is important, and it can help a person sleep well. But exercise should be done more than two hours before bedtime. Otherwise, it can make it hard to fall asleep. She also should avoid caffeine, soda, sugar and big meals two to three hours before bed.
After about 9 p.m., encourage your daughter to focus on calming activities. If possible, she should try to finish her homework before that time. About 30 minutes before bed, have her turn off the TV, computer and other screens. Turn off cell phones at night.
If you try these steps, and you daughter still has trouble sleeping, talk to her doctor. Good sleep is vital for overall health. Research shows that, left untreated, sleep problems may lead to behavior problems, and they can contribute to other health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. Addressing sleep issues now will help your daughter set healthy sleep habits that can have a positive effect on her health for years to come. — Brent Bauer, M.D., General Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.