We all know the importance of getting enough sleep: You’ll be healthier and more alert, and your body also needs the chance to reset. But as much as we all love to list “napping” and “sleeping in” as some of our fave activities, life always seems to get in the way of a full night’s sleep. If you’re failing to catch enough shut eye, you’re not alone; across all races and income levels, today’s teens are actually getting less sleep their counterparts did 20 years ago.
A new study conducted by the medical journal Pediatrics drummed home the usual “sleep more” message, and showed that teen millennials, as a generation, are getting less than the recommended nine hours of sleep per night. While that seems intuitive on its own, that information is super troubling: A sleeplessness epidemic affecting the people who need it most.
Think we’re being overly dramatic? Think again. While the body’s undergoing puberty, sleep is crucial not just to keep you awake during the day, but also to maintain a stable mental state while the body is undergoing a lot of changes. The National Sleep Foundation conducted a study measuring depression, hopelessness, and general anxiety in teens and found that the teens experiencing those feelings most were sleeping the least. Both under- and oversleeping can severely affect how you feel the day after, but serially missing out on sleep has repercussions that last far beyond your teenage years.
Of course, it’s easy to forget about your full nine hours when you’re trying to balance homework, extracurriculars, sports, Internet and social media, and friends on top of each other. But it’s time to prioritize; teens need to take back their sleep, and we’ve got some tips to help you get your optimal zzzs:
Don’t take your screens to bed.
Laptops, tablets, and cellphones are awesome and make life so much easier, but between the light they emit and the distractions they present, they are virtual sleep-sucking portals. Make a vow with yourself to keep all of your things with screens out of at least your bed, if not your bedroom outright. That next level of Candy Crush, or that Instagram tag search, can wait until morning light.
Get active during the day.
You’d think that exercising before bed would make you tired enough to sleep, but exercise actually energizes the body, no matter how tired you get in the moment. Work some exercise into your daily routine, or at least get moving a couple of hours before you tuck in for some shuteye.
Watch your caffeine intake.
It’s common practice to wake up with a morning cup of joe, but there’s a difference between perking yourself up and getting caffeine jitters that last into the night. While everyone has a different caffeine tolerance, keep yours within its limits, and if you know one source of caffeine affects you more than another (coffee vs. tea vs. soda vs. energy drinks), stay away from that one.
Take a bath, read a book, put on your fuzzy socks (which FYI, will help regulate your body temperature) — your only goal is to leave the day’s worries behind and wipe your mind clean. This extends into your sleep environment: fluff your pillows, sort through your blankets, and put on some chill music as your book a one-way ticket to sleep.
While it is oh. so. tempting to get “just five more minutes,” you’re actually making it harder for you to get up later if you don’t pry yourself out of the covers at the very first alarm beep. If you’re looking to optimize your sleep time, apps like Sleep Cycle can track your circadian rhythm (your body’s natural ups and downs) so you can get if not a full night of sleep, then at least wake up at your body’s optimal time. Another tip for getting in tune with your circadian rhythm: face the sun as soon as you wake up, whether this means flinging open some curtains or actually stepping outside.