Teens & Sleep – A Beautiful Union, But What’s Getting in the Way?

Teens & Sleep: A Beautiful Union, But What's Getting in the Way?

Quality pillow time – blissful, uninterrupted and long enough – is vital for all of us. For teens and tweens, their brains are growing like never before and sleep is critical to power this process along. They all have it in them to set the world on fire, and they’ll find their own way to do that, but for that to happen, they need sleep. And plenty of it. So what are most of them doing before they fall asleep that’s getting in the way?

Recent research from Brown University has found that the light from phones or tablets could be disrupting teens’ sleep by suppressing a key hormone that controls the timing of sleep.

Light exposure can delay the time that anyone falls asleep, but teens and tweens are particularly vulnerable. This extent of the vulnerability seems to depend on the stage of puberty they are at.

Children and adolescents aged 9 to 15 who are in the earlier stages of puberty seem to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of light before bed, compared to those 11 to 16 year olds who are further along the puberty path. 

Light exposure at night-time disrupts the production of melatonin, the sleep-timing hormone. The disruption is significantly more for teens in the earlier stages of puberty than those in the later stages, though all are affected to some degree. The short of it is that the brighter the light and the earlier in development, the more trouble teens have falling asleep.

The research looked at the effect of light exposure on 38 children in early to middle puberty and 29 teens in late or post-puberty. Let’s look at the results:

For tweens and teens in early to middle puberty (age 9-15):

  • An hour of dim mood lighting suppressed melatonin by 9.2%.
  •  An hour of normal room light decreased it by 26%.
  • Brighter light (as in supermarket bright) knocked it down by 36.9%.

For teens in the later stages or post-puberty (age 11-16):

  • An hour of dim light made no difference to melatonin production.
  • Normal room light reduced it by 12.5%.
  • Bright light reduced it by 23.9%.

The effects were the same for boys and girls.

According to the authors of the study, small amounts of light, such as that from tablets, televisions or computers is enough to interfere with sleep cycles by making it harder to fall asleep, ultimately reducing overall sleep time.

Screen time for our teens is here to stay. It’s how they connect, learn, and experiment with the world and their place in it. But they need their sleep and anything you can do to get them on board with the timing of screen stoppage time before bed will be important to ensuring they have what they need to grow into the amazing humans the world is willing them to be.

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Adolescence is all about the transition from childhood to adulthood. It can be a confusing time for everyone - not just for our teens but also for the adults who love them. 

Too often, the line between childhood and adulthood can be a blurry one. The expectations of adulthood can come charging at them, but without the freedoms, confidence, or capabilities that adulthood brings. They can feel with such depth and intensity, but without the adult wisdom or experience to make sense of those feelings. 

They’ll be okay, but it might feel wobbly for a while. In the meantime they will look to us for signs of safety and certainty. This doesn’t mean certainty that everything will always be okay - it won’t be - but certainty that they’ll get through, certainty that they are extraordinary, and needed, and that their will be a space and a place in the world that only they can fill.

We might not always feel that certainty. Some days we might ache, and wish we could make their world feel softer for a while. In those times, it will be less about what you do and more about who you are - being the one who can be with them without needing them to be different, the one who can handle any of their hurts or heartaches with gentle, certain hands, the one who can block out the world for a while by letting them rest in our care without needing them to be, or do, or give anything back in return.♥️
For our children, we start building the foundations for adolescence in their earliest years - the relationship we’ll have with them, who they are going to be, how they are going to be. One of the things we’ll want to build is their capacity to know their own minds and be brave enough to use it. This isn’t easy, even for adults, so the more practice we give them, the more they’ll be able to access their strong, brave, beautiful minds when they need to - when we aren’t there.

This means letting them have a say when we can, asking their opinions, and letting them disagree.

When kids and teens argue, they’re communicating. We need to listen, but the need won’t always be obvious. When littles argue because it’s spaghetti for dinner and ‘I hate spaghetti so much’ (even though last week and the 5 years before last week, spaghetti was their favourite), they might be expressing a need for sleep, power and influence, or independence. All are valid. When your teen argues because they want to do something you’ve said no to, the need might be to preserve their felt sense of inclusion with their tribe, or independence from you. Again, all valid. 

Of course, a valid need doesn’t mean it will always be met. Sometimes our needs might need to take priority to theirs, such as our need to keep them safe, or for them to learn that they can still be okay if everything doesn’t go their way, or that sometimes people will have conflicting needs that need to take priority. What’s important is letting them know we hear them and we get it.

It’s going to take time for kids to learn how to argue and express themselves respectfully. In the meantime, the words might be clumsy, loud, angry. This is when we need to hold on to ourselves, meet them where they are, let them know we hear them, and step into our leadership presence. We might give them what they need because it makes sense and because there isn’t enough reason not to. Sometimes, after giving them space to be heard we’ll need to stand our ground. Other times we might solve the problem collaboratively: This is what you want. This is what I want. Let’s talk about how we can we both get what we need.♥️
Anxiety will always tilt our focus to the risks, often at the expense of the very real rewards. It does this to keep us safe. We’re more likely to run into trouble if we miss the potential risks than if we miss the potential gains. 

This means that anxiety will swell just as much in reaction to a real life-threat, as it will to the things that might cause heartache (feels awful, but not life-threatening), but which will more likely come with great rewards. Wholehearted living means actively shifting our awareness to what we have to gain by taking a safe risk. 

Sometimes staying safe will be the exactly right thing to do, but sometimes we need to fight for that important or meaningful thing by hushing the noise of anxiety and moving bravely forward. 

When children or teens are on the edge of brave, but anxiety is pushing them back, ask, ‘But what would it be like if you could?’ ♥️

#parenting #parent #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #positiveparenting #heywarrior #heyawesome
Except I don’t do hungry me or tired me or intolerant me, as, you know … intolerably. Most of the time. Sometimes.
Growth doesn’t always announce itself in ways that feel safe or invited. Often, it can leave us exhausted and confused and with dirt in our pores from the fury of the battle. It is this way for all of us, our children too. 

The truth of it all is that we are all born with a profound and immense capacity to rise through challenges, changes and heartache. There is something else we are born with too, and it is the capacity to add softness, strength, and safety for each other when the movement towards growth feels too big. Not always by finding the answer, but by being it - just by being - safe, warm, vulnerable, real. As it turns out, sometimes, this is the richest source of growth for all of us.

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