Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

Understanding and Supporting Your Teenagers – few spaces left and I’m not doing it again!

The Teenage Brain Woman On: Sleep

Continuing my series in which I pull together the key resources I have created over the years on a particular topic. My website is so large that you really do need my hand to guide you through it! Today, I look at sleep.

Of course, I’ve written a whole book on sleep, The Awesome Power of Sleep, focusing particularly on teenagers. That’s the best place to read everything, beautifully curated and organised for ease of reading. I know that several schools have bought a copy for every student in a year group – excellent plan! I have twice been an official delegate for World Sleep Day, when I have shared my advice in various forms.

Are teenagers really different when it comes to sleep? So is my advice just relating to teenagers?

Teenagers are humans and their brains behave like any human brains since humans began. But their brains are also adolescent brains, and there are some differences in sleep need and how their body clocks work. They are not only biological adolescents but also social adolescents – and social behaviour is a huge driver – so they will behave like the other teenagers they know, partly because of the psychological need to fit in and partly because their biology also drives them to fit in. Social conformity is more powerful for some than for others but it’s a powerful human need in us all.

Blame My Brain – The amazing teenage brain revealed has a whole chapter on the science of teenage sleep, explaining why teenagers need more sleep on average than adults and even than slightly younger children, why they don’t feel sleepy till around the same time as adults and why they still feel sleepy when they have to get up early on a school day. (Obviously this is also explained in The Awesome Power of Sleep.)

Having said that adolescents are somewhat different from adults in sleep needs, note two things.

  1. They are also individuals, so they are not all the same. I hope that’s obvious but sometimes when scientists and I talk about “adolescents” it can sound as though we think they are all the same. Of course they are not. Not all newborn babies / two year olds / parents / shift-worker / maths teachers / billionaires / athletes / any group of people who share aspects of similarity are the same. But scientists and I deal in what has been observed and researched as “typical”, common, a tendency. We know that adolescents on average do or experience a certain thing but we also know that not every adolescent experiences that thing.
    • Importantly, on the topic of sleep, many/most individuals manage perfectly on less or more sleep than is “recommended”. So, when you hear that adults are recommended to have around eight hours and teenagers to have around nine, don’t fixate on those numbers. They are averages only and really just serve to highlight that average teenagers need more than average adults. You will notice no difference in your health and performance if you get a bit less than your recommended amount. Just treat it as a rough goal to aim towards but never worry when you don’t achieve it. Focus more on how you feel and how well your brain and body are working, rather than how close to your recommended hours of sleep you get.
    • However, if you routinely get substantially less than your recommended amount, take a look at your life and see if you can improve your focus on sleep. Sleep is brilliant for brains and bodies!
  2. When it comes to the advice on sleep, there is NO difference between what I advise for adolescents compared to what I’d advise for younger children or adults of any age.

Start here

A comprehensive piece I did for World Sleep Day, including sleep hygiene tips and introducing my Five-step sleep plan. (Some of the things I refer to in it are in the list below.)

Here are some things you can download:

This is a list of starting points for you to research sleep for yourselves: Sleep Starters – info and research

Here are some blog posts on specific aspects of sleep:

Have you listened to my relaxation audio?

It is not designed to listen to as you are trying to sleep but if you practise it a few times you will be able to use the skill to help yourself relax and become ready to drop off.

Two tip-top top tips

These are the over-riding pieces of advice I have for anyone who worries that they don’t sleep enough or well enough.

  1. Do your best to create a good winding-down routine for the last 1-2 hours before your intended sleep time. Sometimes, life will prevent you but just do your best to avoid the “sleep negatives” and build in the “sleep positives” and create a routine – same actions in the same order at the same time.
  2. Don’t worry when sometimes nothing works. Everyone has those nights, and some more than others. As long as you are doing the right things, you are resting and you WILL be fine tomorrow. If you have an exam or something stressful, adrenalin will carry you through.

Schools wanting to educate students to understand and value their healthy sleep? Ask me to do an online Q&A about it and think about buying some copies of The Awesome Power of Sleep for them.

Parents or other relatives wanting to buy a gift for a teenager you care about, you could give them my Gift for a Teenager and choose The Awesome Power of Sleep as their personally signed book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do comment but please remember that this site is for all ages.

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