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A rested brain is an effective brain.

Consistent, restorative sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Sleep has numerous mental health benefits throughout our lifespan, including helping to retain new information and manage emotions*. During deep sleep our brain even cleans itself!

One important brain change that occurs in the teen brain is how sleep patterns are modified after puberty. Sleep patterns change during adolescence because the brain’s circadian system (biological clock) changes. This occurs as a result of a complex dynamic interaction between genetically determined brain development and the impact of the environment. During the teen years the usual childhood pattern of ‘getting up early and going to bed early’ often changes, to a ‘go to bed late and get up late’ pattern. This natural change in circadian rhythm is accentuated by the teen environment.

Start with these strategies for sleep success*

  • Get Consistent: You can train your brain and body to sleep better by going to bed and waking up around the same time each day. This regular rhythm will help develop a consistent sleep routine.
  • Seek Morning Light: Outdoor light exposure for at least 10 minutes in the morning can help set your natural wake-sleep cycle. Regular light exposure early in the day helps your brain be ready for sleep at night.
  • Curb Your Caffeine: People differ in their sensitivity to caffeine. In general, aim to avoid caffeine within 6-8 hours of bedtime.
  • Careful with Alcohol: Although alcohol can initially make you feel drowsy, it reduces the quality of deep sleep, making you feel less rested when you wake in the morning. Avoid consuming alcohol within 3-4 hours of going to sleep and aim to reduce your overall intake.
  • Create a Comfortable Space: Keep your bedroom quiet and comfortable for sleeping. A cooler room temperature with enough blankets to stay warm may help with deeper sleep. Light-inhibiting curtains, eye masks and earplugs may also help.
  • Reserve Your Bed for Sleep: The human brain is quick to make connections. Though it can be tempting to grab your device to catch up on homework, news or social media while cozy in bed, please don’t. This interferes with your brain connecting your bed with good rest.
  • Write It Down: Is your brain continually scrolling through your to-do list? Keep a pen and paper by your bed and jot down any nagging thoughts.  With the note there to read the next day, your mind may feel freer to relax.
  • Power Down: Aim to stay away from screens altogether for at least 1 hour before you go to bed. Remove your devices from your room at bedtime. If you must keep them in your bedroom, disconnect notifications to not interrupt sleep.
  • Practice Sleep Rituals: Regular sleep routines can help prepare your mind and body for sleep. This could be reading, listening to music, gentle stretching or having a warm cup of (caffeine-free) tea. Avoid stimulating activities before bed such as an emotional conversation or  an exciting tv show.

Recommended Sleep Guidelines

Newborns (0-2 months): 16 to 18 hours (3-4 hours at a time)
Babies (2-6 months): 14 to 16 hours
Older Babies (6 – 12 months): 14 hours
Toddlers (1-3 years): 10 to 13 hours
Pre-schoolers (3-5 years):
10 to 12 hours
School-aged Children (5-10 years):
10 to 12 hours
Children (6-13 years):
9 to 11 hours
Youth (14-18 years):
8 to 10 hours

(These are guidelines only, as every child has different needs for rest).

Source: Canadian Pediatric Society and National Sleep Foundation

*Remember: Sometimes sleep problems can be an early sign of a health problem or mental illness. If you have been trying all these strategies and continue to struggle with sleep, connect with your doctor to explore if there is a medical issue to address.

Colrain, I.M. Sleep and the Brain. Neuropsychology Review 21, 1–4 (2011). Accessed May 5, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11065-011-9156-z

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