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How to help your teen get more sleep

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Attempting to get your teen to sleep more turns out to be a very complex task. What does not work is telling them "go to bed," because they're wired by Mother Nature to stay awake. So how do you do this? Number one, you got to get their cooperation, you have to work as a team. A good way to do that is to bribe them. Say, "I will pay you to work on a program for a month. I'll put you on minimum wage to sleep. How about that for a deal? But you're going to be getting to sleep in time to have at least eight hours, nine hours of sleep at night." If the kid agrees, you agree to a contract where she agrees to keep a log where she records how she feels on a scale of 1 to 10, how homework is going, how test scores are going, what her mood is like, and you're going to do this for a month. First step, understand all screens must go blank an hour before targeted sleep time, not going into the room but actually head on pillow, out. Next, an hour before sleep time, he goes into the room and you darken the room environment, just the reading lamp and a book. Yes, mom and dad, they will still read books if you find a decent book. No screens, not an electronic screen but just a book with one light. Next, they sit on the floor, not on the bed. The bed should be for sleeping only, not for homework, not for pushing themselves to go to sleep. They get into the bed when they're sleepy. So they sit on the floor and they read. When their eyes get heavy, they climb into the bed. If they don't fall asleep right away, tell them to get out of the bed, sit back on the floor or on a chair and read some more until their eyes get heavy. Next, turn the clock around, and be sure they can't see the clock. Clocks are arousal mechanisms. People who are trying to change their sleep cycle say, "Oh my god, it's 1 a.m. and I'm still awake. This isn't working." Maybe pull the clock out, promise to get them up on time. Next, check their diet, be sure no complex fats, no sugary things after dinner, obviously no caffeine, hopefully after lunch. Some kids are very caffeine-sensitive as adolescents. Finally, good sleepy foods are carbohydrates, pretzels, crackers, sort of thing. Turkey is a great sleep aid as a snack before they go to bed. And finally, talk to your pediatrician and ask about something called melatonin. It's an over-the-counter sleep aid, very safe, we use it with four years old, low amounts, not big amounts, one and one half milligram, 20 minutes before targeted sleep time. Your kid will struggle for a week and then suddenly her sleep clock will start to kick in. And on her own, she'll start to get sleepy, say 9 or 10 o'clock at night. And there's magic.

Michael Bradley, EdD Adolescent Psychologist, shares advice for parents on how to help your teenager get enough sleep, and why sleep is so important for adolescents

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Michael J. Bradley, EdD

Psychologist, Author & Speaker

Michael J. Bradley, EdD, award-winning author, has counseled adolescents and their parents for over 30 years and currently has a private practice in suburban Philadelphia. As a recognized specialist in adolescent behavior and parenting, Dr. Bradley is in demand as a speaker and facilitator for mental health professionals, educators, and parenting groups. He has appeared on over 400 radio and television shows, including CNN, The Today Show and Good Morning, America, and has been interviewed by numerous magazines and newspapers such as USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Parents Magazine. His website forum is a great source of advice and encouragement to parents.

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