We hear everywhere that teens should be getting an average of between 8-10 hours per day of good quality sleep. But recent studies have shown that Aussie teens aren’t getting enough rest at night. So why is it so important to get a good night’s sleep?
Why do you need sleep?
Sleep is critical for your overall physical and mental health.
- Your body repairs itself and carries out essential maintenance when you sleep.
- You grow when you’re asleep.
- Your brain processes information while you sleep (so it definitely helps your memory and learning skills too).
- Sleep allows you to function effectively the next day by improving your concentration and having higher energy levels.
- Sleep is a mood enhancer (just see how cranky your parents are after too little sleep, or watch a toddler going into melt-down when they’re over tired).
What is good sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, good quality sleep is summarised as:
- You sleep a total of seven to nine hours in a 24-hour period, more often than not;
- Falling asleep in 30 minutes or less;
- Waking up no more than once per night, or for no more than 20 minutes in total;
- You feel refreshed when you wake up (not immediately – those people are a rare breed – but once you’ve had time to fully wake up);
- You feel alert and productive during the day.
If you’re not getting quality sleep, here are 6 tips for better sleep.
Make sure you have a comfy mattress and pillow that suits your body type.
If you’re a light sleeper, consider using black out curtains, eye masks, and even ear plugs (but make sure there’s someone around to wake you up if you sleep through your alarm).
Get the temperature right for you by making sure you’re not going to get too hot or too cold.
Establish a good bedtime routine
Back in our cave dwelling years, the signal for humans to sleep was when it got dark…but that’s not so practical in our modern lifestyles.
But you can help your body to recognise it’s nearly time to sleep. This could help you get to sleep earlier, more quickly, and get that better quality sleep.
Warm milky drinks, almond milk, chamomile or valerian tea, coconut water, banana smoothies, and tart cherry juice are all reputed to induce better sleep. Do a bit of yoga, meditation, or light stretches, have a relaxing bath or shower, or read a book.
Getting enough exercise during the day could definitely improve your sleep.
There’s no right and wrong exercise, so do whatever you enjoy; bike riding, walking, running, skate boarding, swimming, or playing cricket – just try and do a little bit every day.
Sometimes you might not see the daylight all that often. Between school, study, and downtime, it can be tricky.
But letting your body get more exposure to daylight could help your brain figure out when it should be awake, and conversely, when it should be asleep.
So consider studying on the patio or near a window. Maybe walk to school instead of taking the bus (you’ve just done your exercise for the day too), or take your breakfast outside and enjoy some sun on your face. It costs you nothing and is definitely worth a shot.
Things to avoid
There are some things that are counter-productive to sleeping. You won’t have to avoid them all the time – maybe just try cutting them out (or down) in the hours before bedtime, and see if it makes a difference.
- Stimulants like caffeine after mid-afternoon; chocolate’s also a potential stimulant so you could try and avoid that too.
- Heavy meals and other indigestion triggers close to bedtime.
- Emotionally upsetting conversations – put them off until the morning if you can.
- Too much activity just before you want to nod off.
- Excessive screen time.
Use tools to help you
There are lots of people out there who suffer with insomnia and other sleep issues. While that kind of sucks (especially when you’re one of them), the good news is that there are lots of apps that could benefit you.
- Calm has a range of guided meditation, sleep stories and music all designed to help you sleep easier and better.
- Pzizz uses psychoacoustics (a combination of sounds that affect the body’s responses – from heart rate, to breathing etc.), to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep.
- Noisli is perfect for those who can’t sleep when it’s too quiet, where you can create the perfect ambient background sounds.
- Headspace can help you learn to meditate, which could also help you improve your ability to relax and get better sleep.
- Sleep cycle will monitor your sleep, and could improve your sleep by helping you to find problem areas and establish better routines. It also has an alarm which will wake you up when you’re in a light sleep rather than a deep sleep, which might make the waking up process easier and more pleasant.
If you can’t avoid the temptation of screen time (or you’re using an app), then you could try reducing the brightness of your screen, or turn on the blue light filter. While you’re at it, try reducing the brightness of the lighting in your bedroom too.
It’s also great to set your phone on night mode – it will automatically turn on at night and off in the morning (you select the times) and you won’t receive notifications or alerts during that time (but yes, your alarm will still work).
Ultimately, improving your sleep habits could make you happier, healthier, and help you study easier.