The boom in smartphone and tablet technology has meant that many children stay up late using these gadgets instead of prioritizing sleep, with big risks for their health. A new study by researchers at Michigan Medicine has found that 56% of parents of teens with sleep issues believe that the main reason for their problem is their child’s use of electronics. Of the parents surveyed by researchers, 43% said their teens struggle to fall asleep or wake up; many say their these problems occur three or more times per week.

Why is Sleep So Important for Teens?

Good sleep quality is vital for teens because they are already up against a big challenge: the change in their circadian rhythms (or internal clock). These rhythms enable us to feel sleepy when it is dark and alert in the daytime. As noted by UCLA Health, in teens, the need to sleep is delayed by about two hours. Because they have to wake up early in the day to attend school or college, it is important to ensure they enjoy good sleep quality.

What are the Main Reasons for Sleep Disturbance in Teens?

Using technology in the evening or at bedtime is one factor that can hamper teen’s sleep, but there are other known reasons that parents should be aware of. These can include sleep apnea (in which frequent pauses in breathing at night time can disturb sleep), narcolepsy (which causes severe tiredness during the day), and circadian rhythm disorders (teens can feel sleepy during the day and alert at night). If you think your teen may have any of these issues, it is important to obtain a diagnosis and treatment, since issues like apnea have serious conditions for health, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke exponentially.

Optimizing Bedroom Design for Teens

There are many changes families make to encourage better sleep in teens. The first is optimizing bedroom design. Bedrooms should be dark and completely quiet – so consider soundproofing and blackout curtains if needed. Your child’s mattress should be the right firmness for his or her sleeping positions. Teens who sleep on their back or stomach will need a firm bed to avoid back pain, while side sleepers will often sleep best with a softer mattress containing memory foam. TVs and other technology should be kept outside the bedroom, so that this space is associated with winding down rather than stimulation.

Recommended Strategies for Teens

Sleep specialists recommend a number of different strategies for better sleep in teens, including limiting caffeine in the evening, turning off all electronic gadgets in the hours leading up to bedtime, having a small snack, following a strict sleep schedule, and taking natural supplements such as melatonin. Other commonly used techniques include relaxation exercises (breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or meditation) and the use of essential oils such as lavender and orange. Taking a warm bath before bedtime can also help teens feel sleepy.

When it comes to teens getting a good night’s sleep, quality is as important as quantity. Teens should ideally fall asleep within half and hour of going to bed, wake up no more than once in the night, and wake up feeling refreshed. If this is not the case, they should consider seeing a sleep specialist, especially if they snore or have other possible symptoms of sleep apnea.