Caring for Kids…at Billings Clinic

Tired Teens

As an advanced nurse practitioner with the Pediatric Pulmonary Office, I often see patients for evaluation of their sleep. It is usually a lack of sleep that brings teens into my office.  If your adolescent seems overly tired then consider these sleep tips.

  1. Have a regular sleep schedule. This means bedtime and wake-up time each day should not be more than one hour different from day to day. Sleeping in on weekends or taking naps only means it is more difficult to go to sleep the next day.
  2. Avoid screen time 30 minutes to one hour prior to bed. I will clarify that this is not only television screens but all screens including smart phones, computers, and tablets. The light from the screens tells our brain that it is morning making it more difficult to fall asleep.  Plus, these devices can be very stimulating to our brains and keep us awake for hours on end. I love my smart phone and know it is not easy to give up at night especially when I hear a little ding saying a new e-mail or text has arrived. This is not an easy change but really will make a difference. Screen time first thing upon awakening is fine as the light gets our brain kick-started for the day to come.
  3. Get morning sunlight. It’s hard to imagine as I look outside at all the snow, but spring is just around the corner. One of the best ways to wake up in the morning is to get sunlight. Teens are very busy so they don’t have the luxury of sitting outside on the porch and sipping a warm cup of tea. However, eating breakfast in the sunlight or turning on bright lights while getting ready will stimulate the receptors in the sleep center of a brain telling them to wake up. This can really help with concentration in those early morning classes.
  4. Keep the bedroom a sleep haven. The bedroom should be dark and quiet all night long. If a light is needed to feel comfortable I recommend a very dim nightlight or lava lamp. If sound is needed than a fan or white noise sound machine works well. Our brain makes associations when we fall asleep based on the sleeping environment. If a fan is on to start the night then the fan should stay on all night long. Otherwise, when we wake up slightly in the middle of the night and don’t hear the fan it confuses our brain. Then our brain tries to figure out what changed and we wake frequently throughout the night.

When is it more than normal teenage tiredness? If you notice snoring, pauses in breathing, or gasping for breath during the night tell a provider. If the teenage is falling asleep on short car rides or falling asleep during normal activities such as riding a bike, eating, or driving contact a provider. If issues arise at school such as falling asleep in class, increased irritability, or difficulty concentrating speak to a primary provider.  When in doubt bring up concerns about sleep. Teenagers are our future and we need them well rested.

Abbey Volf, FNP

Abbey Volf is a board certified advanced family nurse practitioner in Pediatric Pulmonology at Billings Clinic. Abbey, her husband, and her two children spend most of their free time in the outdoors skiing camping or hiking.

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