Nighttime Rituals Part 4: Rituals for Teens

Sleep deprived teens
Delayed circadian rhythms and growing time constraints can leave growing teens increasingly sleep deprived.

Regular bedtime routines or “nighttime rituals” can help your night-owl teen get the sleep he needs. Better sleep means better health and better behavior—the holy grail for parents of over-stressed, under-rested adolescents. Here’s how and why nighttime rituals can help.

Teens and Sleep

Recent sleep research suggests that teenage physiology is literally geared to staying up later and sleeping later after sunrise. Natural circadian rhythms are delayed during the teen years, making it feel entirely natural for your teen to be awake at 2 or 3 in the morning and groggy when the sun comes up. She may literally be unable to fall asleep earlier—drowsiness hasn’t kicked in at what grownups consider a “normal” bedtime, and she may not have had the experience to learn how to encourage sleep through proper sleep hygiene.

Setting Up a Nighttime Ritual with Your Teenager

Nighttime rituals can cue the body that it’s time to bed, encouraging drowsiness through the creation of a regular sleep schedule. It may take a little effort and a little know-how, but in the long run it can help your teen sleep better, equipping her to handle her growing daytime obligations to family, school, extra-curricular activities, and friends. Here’s how to get started:

  • Talk to your teen. Many parents feel frustrated by bedtime battles and weekend lie-ins that can last ‘til 2 pm or later. Instead of venting that frustration, set aside time to talk to your teenager. Tell him what you know about teenage sleep cycles—that you understand it’s natural for him to want to be awake late and to sleep in. Open the lines of communication, then suggest that there are ways to help him get more, healthier sleep.
  • Stress the importance of routine. Doing the same thing, in the same order, in the same environment can help initiate habit, making a series of actions easier to replicate over time. Picking a few things to do each evening in sequence can help your teen trigger sleepiness after a couple months of repetition.
  • Hygiene first. Gently remind your teen to integrate basic hygiene into the bedtime routine—tooth brushing, hair brushing, and flossing are quick, relatively easy activities that can form the bare bones of your teen’s nighttime rituals while helping him stay healthy.
  • Look for relaxing activities your teen enjoys. Maybe your teen already enjoys long, hot baths or showers, practices yoga, or has a weakness for good books. Encourage relaxing activities that come naturally. Avoid electronics—working on the computer or watching TV can prolong exposure to artificial light and further disrupt circadian rhythm. Also, help your teen steer clear of gripping books that will keep her up ‘til 3 am anyway.

Nighttime rituals can be a powerful way for your teen to get more and better sleep. Help your teen keep up with the new evening routine by checking in before bed and again in the morning to see how things went. With time and a little communication on the part of both parent and teenager, a better night’s sleep (and better daytime moods) are possible for the whole household.

Author Bio: +Michelle Gordon is a sleep expert who researches and writes about sleep and health, and is an online publisher for the latex mattress specialist