I’m having trouble getting to sleep. My day is so busy with school and travel and homework that I just need time for myself. I stay up late and then I’m yawning all the next day. What should I do? Night Owl, age 17 (female, gymnastics)
Dear Night Owl,
Ain’t that a pickle? You know you need downtime. (correct!) But you find it mostly when you ought to be sleeping. (hmmm…) It’s widely accepted that teenagers need 8-10 hours of shut-eye every night. While everyone loses sleep now and then, habitually not getting your zzz’s is… well, a habit. We can swap this with a healthier habit.
What activities are you doing at night, especially that last hour? Are you on your devices? Does it feel like a good use of your time? Sometimes we settle for non-fulfilling activities, just to feel in control of our life. Does this sound like you?
To swap for healthier options, look for pockets of your day can you assign to your downtime. What relaxes you? Make yourself reminders to do calming activities in short chunks during your day. As a few examples, when traveling to and from practice, maybe you can ground yourself with positive self-talk instead of social media. Affirmations or simple deep breaths can work also. Some teens draw, craft, or read.
Whatever you do, the goals are to be mindful and consistent. Take control of the minutes that are all yours and no one else’s. While it may feel awkward at first, you’ll be “practicing” how to master your day, just like you practice to master your sport. When bedtime comes, lay your head on your pillow knowing you did your best. It’s a great way to go to sleep!