What time should you go to sleep? In this article we look at good bedtimes to ensure that our children are getting enough sleep and we share tips for ensuring that your kids have the best possible chance of quality, healthy sleep.
Sleep is the third pillar of health, along with good nutrition and exercise, and yet it’s often overlooked. That’s a mistake because sleep is essential for brain health. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur that help you remember things you learned during the day, prepare your brain for learning the next day, and help your body grow and heal.
Sleep deprivation can be harmful — when we don’t get enough sleep it’s harder to learn new things and our ability to plan and stay organized is impaired. Lack of sleep affects our mood, too. It can make it hard to get along with family or friends, and make it harder for you to cope with stress in your life. When you’re not getting enough sleep you’re also more likely to have an accident, get injured, and you’re even more likely to fall ill. Your body needs sleep.
How much sleep do you need? Children age 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep (average of 10 hours) and teenagers age 14-18 typically need 8-10 hours of sleep (average of 9 hours). Most American teenagers are getting about 7 hours of sleep a night – and that’s not enough. If you’re going day after day with less than 9 hours of sleep, you’re probably suffering from sleep deprivation. One of the bad things about long term sleep deprivation is that over time you no longer realize that you are actually sleep deprived: you feel fine, but you’re not (watch How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need? by ASAP Science to understand the effects of sleep deprivation on everyone and the sleep needs of adults).
Here’s a chart that shows what time you should go to bed, based on your age and what time you need to wake up.
Now the hard part: given that school at Masconomet currently starts at 7:35 AM, you need to try to get to bed early enough to get that sleep. Studies show that only 20% of American adolescents are getting the sleep they need – that’s not healthy. Do the math: if you are 15, need 9 hours of sleep, and you wake up at 6:00am for your bus, then you need to try to fall asleep no later than 9:00pm.
Falling asleep that early is going to be hard for a teenager, especially when your natural body clock won’t make you feel sleepy until around 11pm. 9:00 may not be realistic for you, but maybe you can start to feel sleepy at 10:00? That would be a good step in the right direction and every little bit helps. How do you get yourself to sleep before your body is actually ready? There are things you can do to help yourself fall asleep earlier than usual, but they take hard work.
- Make sleep a priority. Decide what you need to change to get enough sleep to stay healthy, happy, and smart!
- Make your room a sleep haven. Keep it cool, quiet and dark. If you need to, get eyeshades or blackout curtains. Let in bright light in the morning to signal your body to wake up.
- Avoid caffeine after 12:00pm. The half life of caffeine in your body is 6-9 hours. That means that the energy drink you had at 3pm with 80mg of caffeine in it, still has 40mg of caffeine in your body at 9:00pm. That will keep you awake!
- Establish a bed and wake-time and stick to it. A consistent sleep schedule will help you feel less tired since it allows your body to get in sync with its natural patterns. You will find that it’s easier to fall asleep at bedtime with this type of routine.
- Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of your bedtime. Stick to quiet, calm activities, and you’ll fall asleep much more easily!
- Don’t leave your homework for the last minute. Try to get it done at least an hour before bedtime, so your mind can calm down.
- Avoid all screens in the hour before you get in bed. This includes the TV, computer and telephone. The blue color of screens is particularly bad about keeping us awake – it’s the same light that our bodies see at high noon, and makes us feel more awake.
- Leave your devices outside your bedroom. It’s too tempting to check your phone in the night, or send a few more texts to your friends. They can wait until morning – sleep is more important.
- Do the same things every night before you go to sleep and you’ll teach your body the signals that it’s time for bed. Try taking a bath or shower (this will leave you extra time in the morning), or reading a book.
- Try keeping a diary or to-do lists by your bed. If you jot notes down before you go to sleep, you’ll be less likely to stay awake worrying or stressing.
- When you hear your friends talking about their all-nighters, tell them how good you feel after getting enough sleep. Bragging about not getting enough sleep is like bragging about eating junk food.
Here are a few other tips that might help you create better sleep habits:
Naps can help pick you up and make you work more efficiently, if you plan them right. Naps that are too long or too close to bedtime can interfere with your regular sleep. A short nap (30 minutes or less) at around 3:00 or 4:00pm can increase your alertness and recharge your batteries, helping you to finish your day.
On the weekend, don’t sleep in more than 2 hours past your usual time. Yes, it’s hard. But by sleeping in you actually make Monday worse: it starts to push your body into something like jet lag. By Monday, 6am will feel like 1am and you will be even more tired and miserable. Two extra hours on the weekend – no more! (source: Teens who sleep in on weekends risk Monday “jet lag”).
It may take a few weeks of moving your bedtime back, but you may be able to get yourself to bed an hour earlier than you normally feel tired. You’re probably thinking: I can’t go to sleep at 9:30 or 10:00 because I have too much to do, like homework for example. Here’s what’s fun: if you are getting enough sleep, you will be able to complete homework (and other tasks) more quickly and with fewer errors: it’s a win-win.
Source: National Sleep Foundation