At whatever age, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing. However, this is especially critical in teenage years as the brain and body experience significant development.

According to the Australian Government Department of Health (ADH), children aged 5-13 years should sleep for 9-11 hours while adolescents aged 14-17 years can do with 8-10 hours. As many children aren’t reaching these averages, establishing a healthy sleep routine allows your child to prepare for every aspect of their day and be their best selves. Whether that’s making healthy food choices, leaving time for rest and recovery or performing their best at TAS training and games!

Why Is Sleep So Important?

Sleep is like food for the brain and the positive impacts of letting your child’s mind recharge and process information are huge for their daily lives. When your teen is in the classroom they’re likely to benefit from improved memory and expansive thinking, sharper attention and concentration, increased energy and improved creativity. When it comes to being on the field, sleep helps repair your athlete’s muscles and tissues, boost brain power for better decision making, regulate hormones and build a stronger immune system. Sleep also helps you retain and consolidate memories which is ideal when your athlete is practising moves or learning new skills for their next big game!

Without enough sleep, your child may have concentration difficulties, shortened attention span and reaction times, lack of enthusiasm or moodiness, and reduced sporting and academic performance. The effects of sleep deprivation on teenagers developing brains have also been proven to lead to decreased accuracy, quicker exhaustion and heighten the risk of injury – all things we want to avoid!

Why Aren’t My Children Sleeping?

Here are a few simple reasons why your children might have problems either falling asleep or staying asleep:

● Hormones – Puberty hormones shift your teenager’s body clock forward by one to two hours, making them sleepier later. Because of this, the body waits longer to start producing melatonin which leads to the tendency of being a night owl!
● Screen Activities – Smartphones, stimulating entertainment and incoming notifications on devices used around bedtime can cause disrupted and fragmented sleep. In a 2018 study, almost 28% of 12-15 year olds with internet access in their bedrooms didn’t meet sleep guidelines. This is because light cues the brain to stay awake and prevents the production of melatonin, the brain chemical responsible for sleep.
● Stimulants – Loud music, homework or any other activity that gets your child’s mind racing right before bedtime should be avoided. As should stimulants in the evening like coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks which often contain caffeine and can affect levels of adenosine which helps regulate sleep.
● Bedroom Environment – The body’s internal sleep clock is highly dependent on temperature so keeping your athletes’ bedroom slightly cooler is optimal for sleep, while light and noise can also disturb sleep and increase stress levels.

How Can I Help My Children Sleep?

Teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night to function their best, however approximately 25% of 12-15 year olds and 50% of 16-17 year olds in Australia don’t sleep the recommended amount on school nights. Some ways you can help your children fall asleep faster are:

● Suggesting they turn off devices at least 30 minutes before bed.
● Encouraging them to enjoy some exercise or TAS sport during the day.
● Ensuring they have a regular bedtime and wake up time.
● Making sure your family is avoiding stimulants before bed such as sugar or caffeine.
● Checking their sleep hygiene is looked after and their bedroom is dark at night.

Take steps to work with your teenager if they’re having difficulty sleeping. This might look like deciding together on appropriate time limits for stimulating activities such as homework or screen time and encouraging restful activities in the evening such as reading or listening to music. You may also need to assess your teenager’s weekly schedule if they are overcommitted and establish a consistent timetable that prioritises activities that focus on healthy habits while avoiding overextending.