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Navigating Sleep Woes: Healthy Sleep Hygiene at Any Age

As parents, we're often thrown into unexpected conversations with our teenagers, especially when it comes to topics like sleep. Recently, while driving with my teen daughter, she mentioned struggling with sleep lately: she wanted to start taking sleep aids. It was a moment that prompted a deep dive into the importance of healthy sleep habits and how to support her through this challenging phase.

I explained to her that while sleep aids have their place for occasional use, they shouldn't be the first solution we reach for. Instead, I shared with her a plethora of strategies that could naturally enhance her sleep quality. What unfolded was a dialogue that helped her in seeing a different path.

Here's a glimpse into the conversation we had, and the strategies we explored together:

Establishing a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: We discussed the power of winding down before bed. From reading to journaling or gentle yoga, finding activities that calm the mind and body can signal to the brain that it's time to sleep.

Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment: We evaluated her bedroom setup, ensuring it was conducive to quality sleep. Making it cool, quiet, and dark, with the help of blackout curtains or white noise machines, became a priority.

Monitoring Food and Drink Intake: We learned about the impact of food and drinks on sleep. Avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, and sugary snacks before bedtime became a focus. Instead, we explored light snacks rich in tryptophan, like bananas or whole-grain cereal with milk.

Maintaining Consistent Sleep and Wake Times: We emphasized the importance of consistency in sleep schedules, even on weekends. Aligning her body's internal clock through regular sleep and wake times became a goal.

Incorporating Physical Activity: We discussed the role of exercise in regulating sleep patterns. While regular physical activity was encouraged, we acknowledged the need to avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime.

Exploring Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Given her interest in journaling, we delved into mindfulness practices. From writing down thoughts to deep breathing exercises, we explored methods to quiet the mind before sleep.

I reflected on our conversation, I double checked my advice against other information and was happy to see how closely our discussion mirrored expert advice. Felt like a 'win' in the parent column. I shared the findings with her via email so she would have it to comeback to and reflect on.

I am happy to say she has already been sleeping better over the past week with a few tweaks. She is taking a long walk every morning. Riding a stationary bike in the afternoon. Doing a brain dump in her journal before bed. And she incorporated some meditation before bed as well.

For those facing similar challenges with their teens - or even yourself, it's essential to remember that while these strategies can be incredibly beneficial, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. If sleep problems persist, seeking guidance from a healthcare provider can provide invaluable insight and support.

As parents, our role extends beyond providing answers; it's about fostering an environment where our teens feel heard, supported, and empowered to navigate life's challenges with confidence. And in the journey toward better sleep, that's a lesson worth sharing.

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