Dr. Goali, Psychologist, Author, Millennial Expert
Dr. Goali, Psychologist, Author, Millennial Expert

Sleep Checklist

Alarm clock and plant on nightstand for sleep checklist

Evening is one of the most challenging times to ask teens to give up their phones and other devices.

That’s the time when most teens text friends, have video calls, and browse their social media.

Furthermore, research from the UCLA Sleep Center indicates that during puberty, teens experience “sleep phase delay,” meaning that their bodies become sleepy approximately two hours later than before they entered puberty. So instead of becoming tired around eight or nine at night, they are still quite awake until ten or eleven. This change explains why so many teens report having difficulty sleeping any earlier than that time. With this new shift in a teen’s sleep-wake cycle and the constant accessibility of phones, it is no wonder that bedtimes can creep later and later until well past midnight!

Research indicates that lights off at ten is ideal, given the important processes the body goes through in the earlier part of the night. These processes include melatonin production, stimulation of human growth hormone, and memory consolidation. Simply put, the quality of sleep in the earlier hours is more likely to impact how rested you are and ensure that the right hormones are helping repair your body and strengthen your immune functioning. The combination of lack of sleep, poor nutrition, insufficient exercise, and inadequate stress management can create an environment where the body is more vulnerable to contracting illnesses. This is why many teens are more susceptible to flu and cold viruses particularly after stressful events such as exams.

Unfortunately, screens that emit brain-stimulating blue light only further complicate matters. Most teens need computers to complete their homework and often stay up late writing papers and doing research. They are also endlessly available to friends, which means that when a text message comes in at two in the morning they wake up (if even asleep) and answer it. All these factors further harm a teen’s ability to obtain solid sleep. Fortunately, learning to develop healthy “sleep hygiene” can help teens establish good sleep habits. Similar to good dental hygiene—which may include regular sequential steps such as brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash—sleep hygiene is also a step-by-step routine. The goal is to work backward from your typical sleep time to make sure all the steps can be completed in a timely sequence.

Below are some of the components related to good sleep hygiene.

Download the Worksheet and check the ones you already do, and put an X next to the ones you need to work on integrating. See if you can challenge yourself over the next week to maintain your healthy habits and add one or two new ideas each night.

  • Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages (chocolate counts!) from four to six hours prior to sleep. If you are sensitive to excess sugar, also refrain from ingesting sugars several hours prior to sleep.
  • Reserve your bed for sleep-related activities—no doing homework, checking email, or other such activities.
  • If reading before bedtime is relaxing to you, consider doing this for ten or fifteen minutes. Choose material that will be calming and won’t activate your mind. Read out of bed if possible; you do not want to spend too much time in bed doing nonsleep-related activities.
  • Turn off all electronic devices or anything with a screen two hours before bedtime.
  • Activate any features your phone may have that keeps it from emitting blue light at night. On some phones this is called the “night shift” feature, and it allows you to set a time when the phone goes into this mode. This can also be a reminder of when you need to put away electronic devices.
  • Find a comfortable temperature for sleep so that you are not too hot or cold to fall asleep. The ideal temperature for most people is between 65 and 72 degrees.
  • Start preparing your body for sleep by slowly dimming the lights around you from one to two hours before sleep. This helps signal the body to start winding down for the evening.
  • Take a warm bath or shower to relax your muscles one hour prior to sleep.
  • Try a meditation, short prayer, or gentle stretches before bed. While ideally you won’t sleep with a phone in your bedroom, there are some excellent apps that use yoga nidra (a type of sleep-related meditation), which can relax you prior to sleep onset.
  • Do not go to bed hungry or overly full. Both scenarios can negatively impact sleep. There is some research that indicates the calcium and magnesium in dairy milk or yogurt can assist with sleep. However, if you abstain from dairy, consider a light snack if you’re hungry and do not eat a large meal immediately before sleep.
  • Try relaxing herbal teas prior to bed. Many stores sell chamomile or lavender teas that can help relax you. If you find a sleep-concoction tea, be sure to check with a doctor to make sure it is safe to ingest. Sometimes these blends include natural herbs that you may be allergic to.
  • Avoid relying on over-the-counter medications or melatonin for sleep. The fact that you do not need a prescription for them does not make these sleep aids completely safe. Habits and addictions can form, so saving such medications for emergencies is a much safer bet.
  • Try to have as much of a regular routine as possible so your body slowly becomes attuned to when it is time for sleep.

Share this...

Additional Resources

Sleep Checklist

Download the Sleep Checklist Evening is one of the most challenging times to ask teens to give up their phones and other devices. That’s the time when most teens text friends, have video calls, and browse their social media. [read more]

Ready to Get Started?

Stay in the Loop

Sign up for occasional updates, tips, and resources. Your email will never be shared.

Stay in the Loop

Sign up for occasional updates, tips, and resources. Your email will never be shared.

Go to Top