There is no substitute for sleep. Our bodies and minds need it to restore ourselves to functional levels, to grow, even to learn.
Of course, it’s not easy to sleep when you’re feeling overwhelmed. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans say they lose sleep because of stress. That’s especially unfortunate because sleep combats some of the fallout of stress, and poor sleep has been linked to significant problems, including:
- greater risk of depression and anxiety
- increased risk of disease
- impaired memory
- reduced immune system functioning
- weight gain
- greater likelihood of injury due to accidents
Are You Getting Enough Rest?
Experts suggest that teens get at least nine hours of sleep a night. Do you?
- Am I tired during the day?
- Am I using caffeine or other stimulants to get through the day?
- Do I sleep through the night?
- Do I have trouble falling asleep?
- Do I get drowsy in class?
Tips for Better Sleep
- Make your bed. A nicely made bed welcomes you in comfort at bedtime. Straighten it up in the morning before you leave and you’ll look forward to climbing back in.
- Exercise regularly. A good workout every day helps with the routine and allows for your body to welcome sleep. Don’t work out right before bed, though, since exercise may make you more alert.
- De-caffeinate yourself. Drinking caffeine to stay awake during the day can keep you up at night. Try resisting the coffee and colas starting six to eight hours before bed.
- Set a regular bedtime. Your body craves consistency, plus you’re more likely to get enough sleep if you schedule rest like your other important tasks.
- Let it go. An hour before bed, allow your mind to let go of its daytime concerns. Read a great novel or have a light conversation. Your mind will be more ready to slip into sleep than if its still full of the day’s worries.
- Make your bed a sleep haven. No doing homework or using the laptop in bed. Bed is only for your bedtime ritual.
- If at first you don’t succeed…if you can’t fall asleep after 15 minutes, get up. Read, drink a cup of warm milk, listen to calming music, then after a half an hour go back to bed to try again.
For additional information and tips on sleep, the National Sleep Foundation’s website has great resources.
More Serious Sleep Issues
- Talk to your doctor before using over-the-counter sleep aid products. Never combine sleep medications with alcohol or other potentially sedating medicines, and be sure to allow at least 8 hours between taking a sleep medication and driving.
- If you’re having serious sleep problems, see your doctor, especially if you have trouble more than three nights a week for a month. Your doctor can check whether your sleep issues are caused by some underlying health problem, like depression or a thyroid disorder, and can help with a treatment plan or referral to a sleep specialist. Also contact your doctor if you suspect a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, which involves snoring and gaps in breathing, or restless leg syndrome, which causes sudden urges to move your body, or if you are experiencing any unusual nighttime behaviors. It’s also reasonable to see a health care professional if you still feel tired despite getting enough sleep.
- If you want help learning to cope better with sleep problems, try to locate a therapist who offers cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia. This treatment works by changing sleep-related beliefs and behaviors. You might, for example, rethink your notion that the whole night is ruined if you’re not asleep by 10. Locate a counselor or therapist near you.