There is an increasing amount of evidence attesting to the importance of sleep in terms of adolescent development and learning. While it has long been stated that an adolescent should get at least 9 hours of sleep per night, scientists are now proposing that sleep, beyond being the means by which our body restores its energy, is actually a specific kind of learning. Essentially, while we slumber, our brains are consolidating our learning by filtering out the unnecessary and retaining what is valuable.
There is also additional research suggesting that we can use sleep to help different kinds of learning. Scientists are learning that during “stage one” of sleep, (when we experience deep sleep), the brain is busy retaining facts, figures and vocabulary. So rather than staying up all night to cram facts, the adolescent brain would be better served by sleep. Meanwhile, during “stage two” of sleep, the brain focuses on consolidating motor memory which would be beneficial for the performance of our athletes, musicians and dancers.
Understandably, it can be very challenging to encourage your young adult to go to bed by a decent hour. Therefore, it might be worth having them learn about these two stages, so they can be strategic about their sleep and be more invested in getting the right sleep for the right result.
Some tips to keep in mind when helping young people in managing their sleep are:
- Ensure that 8 – 10 hours of sleep are budgeted within daily schedules and an attempt is made to keep to the same time frame during both weekdays and weekends.
- Establish consistent routines prior to bedtime to help with relaxation (soft music, taking a warm bath/shower, reading, light stretching). Such rituals are helpful for those who struggle with falling asleep.
- The use of calming or mindfulness apps (with the phone well away from the bed) are also beneficial in helping their brain and body prepare for sleep.
- No devices for 30 minutes prior to bedtime. Keep them on silent and recharge them outside of the bedroom to avoid disturbance from notifications, or temptations to check them during the night.
- Ensure that your room is dark, cool and quiet.
- Avoid caffeine and high energy drinks for 3-7 hours prior to bedtime.
Sharing this information as part of a family discussion will help young people understand why as a parent you insist on adequate sleep and hopefully help everyone in the family get the rest you deserve.