Each age group has its own sleep schedule.
From birth until the onset of puberty (typically before ages 8–9), we go to bed early and wake up early.
During sexual maturity, circadian rhythms shift forward by 2-3 hours. As a result, we go to bed late and wake up late.
asking your teenage son or daughter to go to bed and fall asleep at ten p.m. is the circadian equivalent of asking you, their parent, to go to sleep at seven or eight p.m.
a change that is common across all adolescents, irrespective of culture or geography.1
After puberty, rhythms return to normal.
Why did nature make teenagers “night owls”?
One of the curious explanations suggested by Professor Matthew Walker is to separate children from their parents. When parents sleep at night, a teenager are experiencing the burst of energy and can independently explore the world for several hours.
In our times, this leads to sleep deprivation among adolescents because, after a short night’s sleep, they are forced to wake up early in the morning for school.
There can be two tactics to fix the situation:
- Weekend catch-up sleep. A last resort option.
- Help body fall asleep every day. Recommended.
Weekend catch-up sleep
Research shows that it is possible to catch up on sleep to some extent on weekends.2 For example, if you sleep 5-6 hours all week, then 9 hours of sleep on weekends will be effective, as well as additional daytime sleep. But it is not worth delaying waking up to avoid disrupting schedule completely.
Strive to get at least 52 hours of sleep per week. We are talking about hours of sleep, not hours when you just lie in bed and cannot fall asleep.
Help body fall asleep
To sleep well every day, try following:
- Eliminate stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine, and products containing it like chocolate.
- Remove light and gadget screens from bedroom.
- Lower temperature in bedroom to 18.3°C (65°F).
- Lower body temperature by 1°C (2–3°F). Heat is released through heated surfaces of body, so take shower, warm your feet and palms.
- Set regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends. Better without alarm clock. Probably, relatively comfortable bedtime for teenagers is 11-12 midnight.
- Avoid daytime or evening naps if you have trouble falling asleep at night.
- Take 200–400 mg of magnesium. Standard dose is 200, and if you sweat a lot or have magnesium deficiency, take 400.
- Try aromatherapy with lavender oil or lavender dietary supplement half an hour before bed. Lavender removes anxious thoughts and helps to calm down.
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker PhD, Scribner, 2017 ↩
Åkerstedt, Torbjörn; Ghilotti, Francesca; Grotta, Alessandra; Zhao, Hongwei; Adami, Hans-Olov; Trolle-Lagerros, Ylva; Bellocco, Rino (2018). Sleep duration and mortality - Does weekend sleep matter?. Journal of Sleep Research, (), e12712–. doi:10.1111/jsr.12712 ↩
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