How can you get better sleep?

We’ve all heard that sleep is important for our mental and physical health, yet it always seems we don’t get enough. Screens, homework, activities, and our natural circadian rhythm all seem to get in the way. What can you do to get better sleep?

Go to bed when tired at night.

Fighting sleep initially will make it harder to go to sleep when you finally go to bed.

If you miss the tired phase, you will hit a second wind and be up for much longer in a wired phase. You won’t necessarily feel tired past bedtime, but you body will suffer the effects of sleep deprivation if you miss out on needed sleep.

Attempt to follow a regular sleep schedule.

Going to bed and getting up at about the same time every day really helps you get better sleep overall.

While sleeping in on weekends can help repair a sleep deficit, it can make it harder to get to sleep Sunday night and getting sufficient sleep every night is better than just getting more sleep a few days/week.

Try to sleep in no more than 2 hours past your school day wake up time. Sleeping in too late makes it hard to get to bed on time that night.

Follow the same routine each night at bedtime.

Brush teeth, read a book, color, take a bath or shower — do whatever helps you wind down and relax.

Repeating this every night can help your brain get ready for bed. The routine itself helps. Your body anticipates sleep is coming.

Nap to help make up missed sleep.

A short 15-20 minute nap after school can help revitalize the brain to get homework done. Just don’t sleep too long or it can interfere with bedtime.

Turn off the screens an hour before bedtime.

All lighted screens keep your melatonin levels too low. A gland in our head makes melatonin in response to darkness. The melatonin helps us feel tired.

This means that television, computer games, computer/tablet use for homework, and smartphones for socializing all keep you awake. Turn them off at least an hour before bedtime. Don’t even check your social media accounts during that last hour of your day.

Try to get all your homework that requires a computer or tablet use completed earlier in the evening. Save the homework that only involves paper books and assignments for last if needed.

If you must be on a screen close to bedtime, use night mode screen lighting and apps that take the blue lights off of the screen. I personally use the f.lux app – it’s free and easy to set up. It works well!

What about melatonin supplements?

Melatonin is available as a supplement in many forms. It is commonly used in children to help with sleep. Since up to 70% of kids with ADHD have problems falling asleep, it is especially common to be used in this group.

It’s generally considered safe, but there are some cautions. It isn’t regulated by the FDA, so what the label says and what you get might be different. Studies in children are also lacking, so specific interactions, dosing, and best uses are not known.

In my experience, there are few side effects from melatonin. Some kids still don’t sleep well with it and others are still tired the following day. It can also interact with other medications, so if you take it, be sure to talk to your doctor about it.

To learn more about melatonin, check out this great post from Dr. Craig Canapari.

Avoid caffeine in the later afternoon.

The time it takes half of the caffeine to be removed from your body is 5-6 hours.

Ideally teens would sleep and never drink caffeine, but I know that isn’t reality. Any caffeine in the later afternoon can make it harder to fall to sleep.

Don’t forget “hidden” sources of caffeine, such as chocolate, energy bars, and workout supplements.

Coffee nap

One interesting concept that has scientific backing (but goes against the “no caffeine after 3 pm” rule) is the coffee nap.

Basically, you drink coffee (or another caffeinated drink – but be careful of those loaded with sugar).

You then quickly nap for 15-20 minutes. Sodas and teas don’t work as well as plain coffee due to too much sugar and too little caffeine.

The coffee nap has been shown to be more effective than either a nap or caffeine alone. The basic premise is that your brain gets a nap before the caffeine kicks in, then you wake as the caffeine is taking effect to help you wake up.

Cautions for the coffee nap

Use the coffee nap only at times you really need it.

Don’t do this too late in the day or the caffeine will inhibit your regular night’s sleep.

Caffeine + stimulant medicines don’t mix

Be very careful using caffeine if you take a stimulant medication, such as methylphenidate or amphetamine.

When you add caffeine to this, it can cause an elevation in your heart rate and increase anxiety.

If you take a stimulant medicine most days but don’t take it other days, it would be acceptable to use caffeine for short term benefits when off your medicine. Caffeine is not a good substitute for medications long term though. The medications have a more consistent dose effect.

Talk to your doctor if you do drink caffeine so they can help you adjust your medicine if needed.

Skip the snooze button.

Set your alarm for the last possible moment you can, which allows your body to get those extra minutes of sleep.

If you need to get out of bed by 6:45, but set your alarm for 6:15 and hit snooze several times, you aren’t sleeping those 30 minutes. Set your alarm for 6:45!

Skip the late night studying.

Studying too late is ineffective.

When the brain’s tired it won’t learn as well and you will make mistakes more readily. It takes a lot longer to get anything done when you’re tired.

Go to bed and get up a little earlier to get the work finished if needed.

Of course you should also look at your time management if this happens too often. Are you involved in too many activities? Do you work or volunteer too many hours? Did you waste too much time on tv, games, or socializing? Do you put off big projects until the last minute?

Homework needs to take priority when you’re more alert in the afternoon and evening. If you have problems with this, talk to parents and teachers about what you can do.

Charge your phone in another room. 

Friends who decide to text in the middle of the night keep you from sleeping. Even phones on silent have blinking lights that can spark your curiosity.

It’s too tempting to look at your social media apps one more time if you have your phone with you as you go to bed. Your brain gets a dopamine hit every time you play a game or interact on social media. This reinforces more and more phone use, which means one last check can turn into an hour or more of playing on the phone.

Don’t use the excuse that you need your phone as an alarm. Alarm clocks are cheap. Get one and put your phone elsewhere!

If you lay awake for hours or wake frequently, try these techniques to help fall asleep: 

If these fail, talk to your parents and doctor to help find a solution.

Use your bed for sleep only.

Don’t do homework in bed.

Stop watching YouTube and Netflix in bed.

Train your brain that your bed is where you sleep.

Exercise.

Exercise helps our bodies sleep better, but it should ideally be earlier in the day.

Exercising too close to bedtime can wire us up, so if you can exercise earlier, that’s a better choice. I know some sports and dance require late practice and class, but if you can schedule exercise earlier, do it.

Get natural sunlight in the morning. 

Natural sunlight helps to set your circadian rhythm. It’s a tried and true method to reset your internal clock when traveling out of your time zone and also helps when you need to adjust your sleep schedule at home.

Keep the bedroom cool and dark.

It’s harder to sleep if the room is too warm or too bright. A fan can be used to circulate air. (The fan also can double as background noise, which is often helpful.)

Use blackout shades if needed.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. 

Your animals might love you and you love them, but if they keep you up, it’s just not worth having them around at night. They’ll still love you in the morning if you keep them away from your room.

Nicotine and alcohol affect sleep.

Nicotine and alcohol should not be used by teens in an ideal world, but I know teens will not always follow the rules.

Everyone should know that if they are using nicotine or alcohol, their quality of sleep will be affected.

Nicotine is a stimulant (like caffeine), which leads to more time sleeping lightly and less time in deep sleep. And yes, vaping and chewing lead to this problem too since it’s the nicotine that causes the problem. Don’t start these habits!

Alcohol reduces the time it takes to fall asleep but it increases sleep disturbances in the second half of the night, often leading to early wakening. Alcohol relaxes muscles, which can lead to sleep apnea (often noted as snoring). Sleep apnea does not allow the body to have restful sleep. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which might increase the need to wake to go to the bathroom during the night.

Get help if needed

If you are addicted to any substance, talk to your doctor for help stopping.

Your doctor must maintain confidentiality under most circumstances, so you can trust that they will help you and not cause more problems. The exception to confidentiality is if they think you are in immediate harm from a substance.

We all need to to prioritize our sleep. Learn how you can get better sleep.

What happens when we’re sleep deprived?

Problems from sleep deprivation are seen everywhere. I hear parents say they need more and that their kids need more. Even teens often admit that they don’t get enough. But why is it such a big deal? What problems are really caused by sleep deprivation? There are many! When we’re sleep deprived, it can lead to many problems that are often not attributed to poor sleep. This can include irritability, poor academic performance, accidents, obesity and more.

Last week we discussed why so many tweens and teens get too little sleep.

You’ll have to learn what your real sleep needs are. Too many people think they’re “used to” less than recommended amounts of sleep, so they’re okay. Once you know your needs, learn the problems with sleep deprivation so you can recognize symptoms in yourself.

Next week we’ll talk about how you can get better sleep.

How much sleep is needed?

Sleep experts recommend nine to ten hours for growing tweens and teens, with a minimum of eight and a half hours until the mid-twenties as our brains continue to mature.

Remember that when we’re sick or in a growth spurt, we need more than usual. Listen to your body!

Find your specific need.

You can estimate how much you need by experimenting over a school vacation time. Go to bed when you’re tired at night and wake on your own. Talk to your parents to let them know what you’re doing so they don’t try to wake you too soon.

Initially you will probably need a lot to catch up on sleep debt, but after a few nights of adequate sleep, see how much your body needs regularly. Don’t lay around all day watching tv or playing on your phone. Get moving! If you have too much down time, it can make your body feel tired, even when you’re not.

Count the hours you sleep naturally once your sleep debt is paid. When it’s time for school or other activities, adjust your bedtime to allow for that much sleep. If that’s impossible you’ll have to work with parents, coaches, and teachers to find solutions.

When you fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed and wake up without an alarm, you’re probably getting the right amount of sleep. If you fall asleep immediately upon hitting the pillow and always need an alarm to wake up, you’re probably sleep deprived.

Problems of sleep deprivation

Hormone changes

Sleep deprivation can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis (energy). Hormones that regulate appetite are affected by sleep duration. Sleep also influences the release of insulin, which is important in our sugar metabolism

These hormone changes are all implicated in the sleep problems we recognize, and we’re still learning more effects.

Moodiness

We all associate the teen years with angst, so we can easily attribute a teen’s moodiness to just being a teen. But being chronically tired can lead to emotional dysregulation. This will look like irritability, frustration and anger.

Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with developing depression. Depression affects our ability to sleep well and poor sleep can increase the risk of depression, so it can have a snowball effect.

Growth

Growth hormone is released as we sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can affect your overall height if you don’t get enough sleep during your rapid growth tween and teen years.

Growth hormone isn’t just needed for growing. It also stimulates muscle growth, muscle repair, bone building and fat burning. Sleep loss may affect healing time and weight due to less growth hormone.

Obesity

Obesity has been associated with sleep deprivation. Specific appetite hormones are altered by sleep. Our appetite can be increased when we fail to get enough sleep.

Sleep deprivation can lead to eating more calories than needed because of increased appetite. This increases the risk of obesity and all the health consequences of being overweight.

Diabetes

Sugar metabolism is directly affected by sleep. People who don’t get enough sleep are at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes from this direct effect as well as from carrying excess weight.

School problems

Getting proper amounts of sleep can help with focus and learning. When we fail to get enough sleep, problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity start to show. As if ADHD wasn’t enough to cause these things – sleep deprivation compounds the issue!

Grades can easily fall, which leads to anxiety and depression, which in turn leads to more moodiness and trouble sleeping.

Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD. If you think the medicine to help your ADHD that’s worked for years suddenly isn’t working, think about your sleep needs and amounts. Increasing the medicine isn’t the answer!

Injuries

Teens with chronic sleep deprivation are more likely to be accidentally injured due to poor focus and slowed reaction time. Sleep deprivation also slows healing after injury.

Drowsy driving is comparable to drunk driving. Tired teens are at high risk for falling asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving is the most likely to occur in the middle of the night (2-4 am), but also in mid-afternoon (3- 4pm) as teens drive home from school.

Athletes are more likely to be injured while playing their sport, so it is in the best interest of the team to get enough sleep. And yes, I know with the busy practice schedule and homework it’s hard. But athletes need sleep.

Sports Performance

It’s not just injuries that increase among sleep deprived athletes. Performance also falls when we fail to get sleep.

Less sleep increases fatigue, lowers energy, and leads to poor focus. It may also slow recovery as mentioned above.

In short, sleep helps your sports performance.

Study of 18-27 year old males

Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., from the University of Chicago Medical School, studied the effects of three different durations of sleep in eleven 18-27 year old men. For the first 3 nights of the study, the men slept 8 hours per night. Over the next 6 nights, they slept 4 hours per night. For the last 7 nights, they slept 12 hours per night.

After 4 hours of sleep per night, participants metabolized glucose least efficiently. Levels of cortisol were also higher during sleep deprivation periods. This can lead to memory impairment, insulin resistance, and impaired recovery.

After only 1 week of sleep restriction the previously young, healthy males had glucose levels that were no longer normal. They showed a  reduced ability to manage glucose, similar to the way elderly people metabolize it.

Study of female university athletes

Cheri Mah of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory has studied college level athletes for many years. Her research shows that getting more sleep leads to better sports performance for all types of athletes.

One study of the Stanford University women’s tennis team focused on increasing sleep to 10 hours per night. Those who increased their sleep time ran faster sprints and hit more accurate tennis shots than while getting their usual amount of sleep.

Illnesses

Too little sleep increases the risk of getting sick. Your immune system needs sleep to perform at its best.

Risky behaviors

Teens with chronic sleep deprivation have been shown to participate in more risk taking behaviors. These behaviors, such as driving without a seatbelt, drinking alcohol, skipping the bike helmet and tobacco use, add to the problems of sleep deprivation.

Next Up:

Now that you understand the many problems with sleep deprivation, come back next week to learn how to get more sleep.

Why don’t teens get enough sleep?

Teens often do not get enough sleep. Most teens need 8.5-10 hours of sleep each night. Not 6 hours. Not even 8 hours. Most don’t get even close to meeting their needs and that’s a bigger deal than many realize. You don’t just “get used to” too little sleep. Sleep is very undervalued, but we need to prioritize it. Sleep deprived teens suffer from many physical and emotional problems. Add ADHD or anxiety into the mix, and it’s even worse!

This is part 1 of a 3 part sleep series. It will focus on what makes it hard to get enough sleep. Next up will be why it’s so important to get sleep, then the big topic of how to get more.

So… why don’t teens get enough sleep?

Body clock.

One of the most common reasons is that their biological clock (AKA circadian rhythm) makes it hard to fall asleep before 11 pm and school starts too early to allow them to sleep until 8 am, which would allow for a reasonable 9 hours. Nine hours are on the low end of sleep need for many adolescents. If teens are still growing, they will need even more!

Research shows that tween and teen sleep patterns are hormonally influenced. Your parents probably get frustrated with your late nights, thinking you’re in control of your bedtime, but you’re not. This isn’t an act of rebellion.

Research shows that the hormonal response to the 24-hour daily light/dark exposure that influences circadian rhythm is altered in the adolescent years. Adolescents physiologically stay awake later at night and therefore need to remain asleep later in the day.

It’s not your fault!

But sadly, it is your problem because you suffer the consequences.

Screens.

Melatonin is a hormone that is released from our pineal gland. We need it to feel tired. During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and it gets dark, the pineal gland starts to produce melatonin. It’s released into the blood and helps us feel tired and sleep. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated through the night until the light of a new day helps to lower the levels again.

The light from smart phones, tablets, and computers interferes with our natural melatonin rising. This keeps us from feeling tired and falling to sleep.

It’s best to limit screen use for at least an hour before bedtime. I know that for many teens this is difficult because they have to finish their homework at that time. Today’s teens need their computer or tablet to do homework.

If you have any time during the day to work on homework, do it. This is even more important for kids who take stimulant medicines for their ADHD. This medicine is out of your system close to bedtime, so it will be harder to sustain attention, making homework more frustrating and less efficient. Homework will take longer to do after medicine wears off, which decreases the time for sleep and fun activities.

If you can’t turn off the screen, at least use a program that limits the blue light that prevents the rise of melatonin. I personally use f.lux. It’s free and works on PC, Mac, ipad, android, and Linux. I find that it really helps. Try it!

Phones.

On a similar note, phones distract us all from what we’re doing, including getting to sleep. They also can wake us if we forget to put it on silent when we sleep.

Playing that one last game or checking Instagram one last time gives our brain a dopamine hit. Dopamine is a neurochemical known as the “reward molecule” that’s released after certain behaviors, such as eating, exercising or reaching a goal. While physical activity is most commonly linked to dopamine’s release, social media and online gaming are now shown to give a dopamine rush. This is why these behaviors are so addictive. It’s hard to stop the habit. One of the easiest ways is to just not use it except specific times of the day.

Take charge of your phone use ~

If you don’t want your parents restricting phone use, set your own reasonable limits.

Maybe check for messages before you leave for school after you’ve gotten ready. This can let you know of any needs or changes for the day.

Check messages again after school for the same reasons. Allow a 30 minute period to play a game or look at social media after homework is done. Then put it away and do something else.

It’s important to do things other than online games and social media. Find things to do that you enjoy. This article’s about sleep, but there are many negatives to spending too much time on screens. If you can’t limit yourself, talk to your parents or your doctor.

Indirect effects of phone use ~

It’s not just the direct issue of using our phone when it’s bedtime that interferes with sleep. There are indirect things as well.

It takes longer to finish homework when there are distractions from the phone. Putting your phone in another room when doing homework will help you finish more quickly, allowing you to get to other things more quickly.

Think of the extra time you can have to hang out with friends, getting exercise and getting to bed on time if you limit your screen time!

School starts too early.

Most school districts around the country start school well before the recommended 8:30 earliest start time.

School districts that have started later start times have shown improved test scores, fewer absences and tardies, less depression, improved athletic performance, and better graduation rates.

Unfortunately, those schools are still in the minority.

Activities are too late.

It’s not uncommon to have regularly scheduled activities too late in the evening. Many activities in my area are scheduled to run until 9:30 or 10 on school nights for middle and high school aged kids.

When kids finally get home, they’re hungry, need a shower, and are ramped up so not ready for sleep. It can be well past 11 pm when they finally hit the pillow, so they need be able to sleep until at least 8 am to sleep 9 hours, but school’s already started by that time. It’s impossible for them to get sufficient sleep. After school naps might help, but not if there’s not enough time to fit it in between homework and the activity.

There’s no easy solution for this other than reviewing what’s really important and cutting back on whatever can be cut back. This might mean one less activity. Or maybe not taking every AP class or working fewer hours. All of these are important, but sleep is more important to your health and well being.

It will also take the adults in the community to recognize the benefits of sleep. Studies support later school start times, but there are many reasons schools haven’t adopted these. If you’re a real go-getter, get active in later start times movements.

Activities start too early.

I know many kids who must be at school before school actually starts. Whether it’s band practice, church study groups, sports, or taking a missed test before school, they all interfere with sleeping in, which is what teens need.

Again, this will take the adults in the community to recognize the importance of adolescents getting enough sleep. And for most teens, this means sleeping in because that’s when they’re physiologically able to sleep.

Medical causes of sleep deprivation.

If you suspect any of the following conditions are affecting your sleep, you should work with your doctor. Even if you aren’t sure why you’re always tired, talk to your doctor.

  1. Anxiety – recurrent thoughts keep popping up
  2. Restless leg syndrome – if your legs just need to move when you lay down
  3. Sleep apnea – pausing of breath, often associated with snoring
  4. Medications that affect sleep cycles – stimulants are commonly used for ADHD and can affect sleep
  5. Heartburn or acid reflux
  6. Hormone imbalances, such as thyroid problems – you might sleep a lot but still feel tired and have other symptoms
  7. Anemia, or low red blood cell counts
  8. Depression – every teen should have a depression screen yearly, but if you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor now!
  9. Nutrition – if you’re not eating enough, or eating foods that are not nutritious, you could feel more tired. If you eat foods that cause spikes in your blood sugar, as those sugars drop you feel fatigued.
  10. Infections – we all need more sleep when sick!
  11. Celiac disease – talk to your doctor if you have chronic abdominal issues, such as diarrhea, vomiting, pain, or weight loss
  12. Chronic pain conditions – if it hurts, you can’t get comfortable enough to sleep
  13. Chronic sleep deprivation – I know this is counter-intuitive, but being tired can make it harder to sleep.
  14. ADHD – that race car brain just won’t wind down!

What difference does it make?

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably not surprised that so many teens (and adults) don’t get enough sleep.

What difference does it make if we’re sleep deprived? It turns out, there are a lot of consequences. Some you may know, some you may be unaware are related to sleep deprivation. Tune in next week to learn why we care so much about sleep deprivation!

5 Self Confidence Boosters Part 4: The Big 3!

Eat right, exercise, and sleep to keep up a healthy body and mind! I call these “The Big 3” things we all need to do to be healthy in mind and body. When we do The Big 3 properly, our self confidence and self esteem are improved.

What are The Big 3?

Eating right, exercise, and sleep.

Eat a nutritionally well balanced diet.

Malnutrition and hunger are not good for our focus. As if people with ADHD need any more problems with focus!

Many of the medicines used to treat the problems from ADHD affect our appetite, so we must be careful to make the most of what we eat.

Start with a good breakfast. I know many teens aren’t into breakfast or just don’t have time for it, but make the time. Find foods that you can eat while getting ready or on the way to school. Examples are smoothies with yogurt, leftovers from dinner, a sandwich and a quesadilla.

Eat some protein and a fruit or vegetable every time you eat. Snack on baby carrots, bell peppers, or cucumbers with hummus after school. Or apples with peanut butter. Grapes and cheese. Strawberries with yogurt. You get the picture? A plant and a protein!

Exercise.

Many people feel that exercise helps their focus. Studies show that they’re right!

After sitting all day at school, do something active before you sit down to do homework. Your body needs the exercise and it will help make study time more efficient.

If you’re not into competitive sports, try other types of exercise. Go for a bike ride. Run. Dance. Swim. Just move!

Whatever you do, make it fun. Put it on your calendar and in your planner so it happens daily.

Sleep.

Sleep is under-appreciated in our society. It is not a time that you’re doing nothing. Your body and mind work hard while you’re sleeping to keep themselves healthy.

Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep each day. Even if you’ve reached your full height, your brain is growing until your mid-twenties. That means it still needs extra sleep compared to adults.

If you’re still growing, you might need 10-11 hours of sleep.

That’s hard when you also have activities, work, and homework. And when your circadian rhythm keeps you up until at least 11 pm but school starts at 7:30am. Not to mention the baseline problems people with ADHD tend to have falling asleep due to minds racing with amazing thoughts.

But here’s what happens when teens are sleep deprived..

My favorite sleep tips:

Exercise.

Exercise itself is one of The Big 3, but it also helps us sleep. Try to get your exercise in early in the day. Exercise can help tire your body so it can sleep well.

Avoid too much exercise within 2 hours of bedtime. This is not possible with some activities, I know. But exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to wind down.

Avoid caffeine and stimulants too close to bedtime.

Caffeine is one of the most commonly used substances to help us stay awake and focused, but it’s not always safe. It is habit forming. It’s also a stimulant, so can be especially problematic if you take a stimulant medicine. The additive effects of the two together can cause problems in some people.

Stimulants like adderall and ritalin are commonly used to treat ADHD, but should be used under the supervision of your physician.

If you use caffeine to help your focus or to stay awake, be sure to talk about the use with your doctor. This is especially true if you use a stimulant medicine, but even if you’re not. Relying on caffeine can be an indicator that you are self medicating something that could be better controlled with proper sleep or a prescription medication.

If you take a stimulant medicine, don’t take it too late in the day. Long acting medicines can last 8-16 hours. Short acting medicines last 3-4 hours. Know what you’re taking and when they tend to wear off. It’s unique to each person, but you can usually feel the effects wear off. If you take it too close to bedtime, it can cause sleep problems. For many teens, they can’t take a long acting medicine after 10 am or a short acting medicine after 6 pm, but how your medicine works in your body will be unique to you. Pay attention to when you feel the medicine wears off each day to learn how long it lasts for you.

Turn down lights.

Turn down lights 2 hours before bedtime. Your body needs darkness to make melatonin. Melatonin makes you feel tired and helps you fall asleep. Artificial lights keep the melatonin level from increasing, so you feel less tired.

Fluorescent lights, televisions, computers, cell phones, tablets and all other lighted things can affect your melatonin level.

Check out f.lux, a free program for PCs, Macs, iPhones, and androids that changes the screen lighting prior to bedtime to allow natural melatonin to rise if you must be on a screen close to bedtime. Must means you have to finish homework that you couldn’t do earlier. It does not mean checking social media or texting friends. It also doesn’t mean putting off homework until later because you just don’t want to do it after school. Work and scheduled activities are a good excuse. Procrastination isn’t.

If you want to take a supplement of melatonin, talk to your doctor.

Watch out for late night munchies.

Avoid eating (especially large meals) before bedtime. Again, I know this can be hard, especially if you have after school activities that keep you busy and make you hungry.

This is even more difficult if your daytime medicine makes you not hungry at lunchtime. Of course try to eat at least something with good calories mid day, but if you don’t eat a typical lunch, you’ll need to make up the lost calories after the medicine wears off. Be sure to not eat foods that bother your stomach while laying down too close to bedtime.

Relax!

Do relaxing activities as part of your bedtime routine. These can include reading, taking a shower, coloring or listening to soothing music.

If thoughts keep you up, journal before climbing into bed. Journaling can help focus thoughts and allow your brain to stop thinking about them.

Relaxation exercises or deep breathing can help. Put a hand on your heart and on your abdomen. Try to keep your heart hand still while you take in a slow, deep breath. While you inhale count 4 counts and while you exhale count 8 counts. The deep breaths can make you feel tired, and the counting slowly helps keep your brain from racing thoughts.

Practice meditation every day. There are many mindfulness apps to try – and most are free. Once you’re used to using the technique (it’s great before doing homework) you can also use mindfulness at bedtime.

Set the stage.

Make your bed a place for sleep. Avoid doing homework on it. Let your body associate your bed with sleeping.

Keep your bedroom cool and dark. Use a fan to keep it cool and as a white noise.

Keep pets out of the bedroom. They tend to keep you up or wake you too early.

Ideally you’ll charge your phone in another room overnight to avoid late night distractions. If you must have your phone in your room, make sure no notifications will wake you. Resist checking it “one more time” as you go to bed because you know it will be several minutes of scrolling through things…

Stick to a schedule.

Keep your bedtime consistent.

Even if you can sleep in on weekends, try to go to bed within an hour of your usual bedtime. This schedule is important!

Still not sleeping?

For more on sleep, check out I Just Want To Go To Sleep! How to Sleep Better (According to Science) by “Hey Sigmund.”

Talk to your doctor if you’re not sleeping. Sleep deprivation can mimic ADHD symptoms, and you don’t need that additional problem!

Don't underestimate the power of sleep
Don’t underestimate the power of sleep!

Coming up next:

This is part 4 of a 5 part series.

Be sure to check back next week for one of my favorite ways to boost your self confidence: Help others.

Also look back at ways to boost your self confidence through: