Regularly getting insufficient sleep leads to chronic sleep deprivation, which is a contributing factor to significant mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Not getting enough sleep means teens will do poorer in school, will be more likely to struggle with obesity (and diabetes), and will be at a higher risk for harmful substance use.
What’s the biggest culprit?
Here’s a hint: it’s not their schoolwork or the competitive nature of college admissions. It’s not their activities like sports or drama, and it’s not their hormones.
It’s their smartphone. Since 2012, the year when the majority of teens had their own smartphones, the amount of sleep a teenager gets on average has trended downward.
In fact, the average amount of sleep a teenager gets has declined dramatically.
What can you do?
It starts with proximity. Don’t let your kids sleep with their phones next to them or under their pillows. Buy them a cheap alarm clock, and keep their phones in another location in the house.
They might feel like they’ll be left out of the conversation between friends if they don’t have constant access to their phones. They might feel like they need to watch one more episode of their favorite show. They might not even recognize the subtle dopamine hits their brains receive when their social media post gets noticed with a like or a reshare.
And all of that activity will trick their brain into thinking it’s still daytime — not time for winding down and getting rest.
Consistent, healthy sleep is essential to a teen’s growth and development. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked by parents as just another battle to lose.
All families can put consistent sleep as a higher priority, and a simple yet powerful step starts with taking phones out of the bedroom.
Here are a few extra resources:
- How much sleep does a kid need? It changes over time, according to the CDC.
- Decreases in self-reported sleep duration among teens associated with screen time
- Associations Between Adolescents’ Daily Digital Technology Use and Sleep