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Sleep Problems in Your Teen: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Children in their teenage years may begin having problems sleeping. There is no "right" amount of sleep for teenagers, as each child's needs are different. But some teenagers have sleep problems that keep them from getting the sleep they need. Some sleep problems go away on their own, while others need medical care.

Some teenagers do not go to bed until late at night and do not fall asleep until early morning. These teenagers are often sleepy in the morning. On the weekends, they often sleep until afternoon. This problem is called delayed sleep-phase syndrome. Drinking more coffee, cola, and other caffeine-filled drinks to stay awake will make this problem worse, not better.

A teenager who begins to have trouble sleeping may worry about it, causing more sleeplessness. Stress can keep the child from getting enough sleep each night.

Sometimes the reason for sleeplessness cannot be found. Your teen's doctor will work with you to find out what is causing the sleep problem. Sometimes tests or sleep studies are necessary. For most children, exercise, a healthy diet, and a good bedtime routine will solve the problem. If you try these changes and your teenager still has sleep problems, your doctor may prescribe medicine or suggest other treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Set a bedtime routine to help your teenager get ready for bed and sleep. Have your teenager go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.
  • If your child is going to bed at a very late hour, try to change the bedtime a little at a time. Have your child go to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until the best bedtime is reached.
  • Keep your teen's bedroom quiet, dark, and cool at bedtime. You may need to remove the TV, computer, telephone, or electronic games from your teen's room to avoid problems with bedtime.
  • Encourage your child to be active each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.
  • Keep your teen from energizing activities, such as video games or sports, right before bedtime.
  • Encourage your child to manage his or her homework load. This can prevent the need to study all night before a test or stay up late to do homework.
  • Put a bright light in your teenager's room. A bright light can help your child wake up in the morning.
  • Limit your teen's eating and drinking near bedtime. Make sure your child does not have caffeine (found in colas, coffee, tea, and chocolate) after 3 p.m.
  • If your child is overweight, set goals for managing your child's weight gain. Being overweight can be associated with sleep problems.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.
  • Your child has new or worse symptoms of sleep apnea. These may include snoring, pauses in breathing, or gasping while sleeping.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.