When it comes to teens getting enough sleep, numerous forces are working against them. Early school start times are wreaking havoc on their circadian rhythms. An overload of after-school activities is turning bedtime into gotta-start-on-homework time. The buzz of texts from friends, the screens shining in their faces and the constant lure of just one more game or episode of Riverdale are keeping their brains wired well into the night. And all the lectures coming from concerned mums and dads seem to be dissolving into thin air because, well, adolescence. And so they slog through their days, cranky and short-fused and barely able to respond to basic questions. As parents, you wonder if there’s anything you can do to help.

You can and you must.

Teenagers need sleep — more of it than they probably think. According to the latest recommendations from the US National Sleep Foundation, kids ages six to 13 should get nine to 11 hours. Teens ages 14 to 17 need eight to ten hours. And young adults from 18 to 25 should aim for seven to nine hours. Yet very few are getting it. Only about 8 per cent of American teenagers are snoozing for the optimal amount of time — nine and a quarter hours — based on a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

That means the rest are sleep-deprived — many severely so. One study showed that 59 per cent of teenagers get fewer than six hours of sleep on school nights. The effects of this go beyond dozing off in fifth-period trigonometry. Sleep deprivation can impair their judgment (at a time when they’re already wired to engage in risky behaviour), trigger anxiety and mood disorders, impact their ability to learn, increase their risk of obesity when they become adults, make them more likely to get sick and lead to car accidents. It can also make them more prone to getting zits.

For parents, it will likely take more than a gentle “Hey, honey, it’s getting late” to shift your teen out of their ingrained habits. Here’s what you can do instead.

1. Show Them Why They Need Sleep, Strategically and Respectfully
A whole lot of us could use more sleep, and better sleep — as adults, we generally acknowledge that. Once you reach 30 or so, you realise sleep is glorious! One of life’s greatest pleasures! Many teenagers, however, believe they function just fine on very little sleep, or if they’re tired, they can simply “catch up” on zzzs on the weekends, which is not true. And when they have a strong opinion about something, and their parents try to convince them otherwise, it can lead to a power struggle.

– Michelle Woo

Read More: 4 Ways to Help Teens Get More Sleep

Image by Gregory Pappas from Unsplash