Helping Teenagers Maintain a Healthy Sleep Routine

Helping Teenagers Maintain a Healthy Sleep Routine

When teenagers were attending school remotely, many teens developed habits of sleeping in longer and staying up later. Summer vacation has not helped this issue. To most teenagers summer means sleeping in and staying up later playing online games with their friends or watching movies on their phones. This definitely does not promote a good sleep pattern for middle school and high school students.

Now that summer is ending and school is beginning, teenagers are not going to be able to stay up or sleep in. Some parents are struggling with their teenagers sleep habits. They report their teenagers are having a tendency now to want to sleep in later and are sleeping more hours on average. Many parents are stating that their teenagers are taking naps on a regular basis. Parents are telling me that they are trying everything they can think of, but they are not being too successful at changing their teenagers sleeping schedules.

A very interesting fact is that teenagers are telling me the same thing. Many teenagers are reporting since remote schooling started and most people were confined to their homes, they are sleeping more than they did before the pandemic. Many teenagers are also saying they don’t want to be sleeping as much as they are but they can’t seem to change their pattern of sleeping more since the pandemic.

This is an unique situation when parents and teenagers are agreeing on a problem behavior. Additionally, both acknowledge that they are trying to reduce the number of hours they are sleeping but nothing seems to be working. For many teenagers, not being able to return to their pre-pandemic sleep habits is very annoying. They are reporting having difficulties doing everything they need to do in their lives because they can’t change their current sleep schedule and they are sleeping too much.

I have had many parents asking me and emailing me regarding getting children and teenagers back on a healthy sleep pattern for school. Many parents are looking at this as an opportunity to get their children and teenagers on a healthy sleep pattern because their teenagers were never on a healthy sleep pattern to begin with. As a result I researched teenage sleep patterns and found some very good information from James Maas, PhD., who specializes in sleep patterns, and he wrote the book, Power Sleep for Success. According to Dr. Maas many teenagers are sleep deprived because beginning at puberty up until the age of 25 around midnight teenagers brains begin producing human growth hormones and reduces the amount of melatonin the brain produces. As a result, teenagers are not ready to sleep until 2am and their brains are ready to wake up at 11am. Dr. Maas refers to this as Chronic Delayed Phase Syndrome and states that every teenager suffers from it.

Since the amount of natural melatonin being produced in teenagers brains is reduced, many parents try providing their teenagers with melatonin supplements. The parents hope that by increasing the amount of melatonin in their teenagers brains with melatonin supplements that teenagers will be able to sleep easier. However, this may not be the case.

Dr. Maas has this to say about melatonin supplements. He states they are not the best way to get your sleep. First, 3 mg of melatonin is the maximum amount that an adult needs, and many over-the-counter formulations start at 5 mg. Some even go to as high as 10 or 12 mg. You are peeing away a lot of melatonin that your body doesn’t need and can’t process. It does work, but there are other options on the market that work just as well as melatonin or better: (1) lavender, either in tea or in a spray; and (2) valerian root. These two over-the-counter supplements actually have been clinically proven to have a sleep-inducing effect.

Dr. Maas has outlined several steps that teenagers can go through before trying to go to sleep. He believes that if children and teenagers follow these steps on a regular basis that it will help a teenager fall asleep. He also believes these steps will help teenagers get enough sleep so they are not sleep deprived and are ready for school the following day. Here are the steps Dr. Maas recommends that children and teenagers follow before their bedtime:

1. Take a warm bath or shower an hour before bed to relax and to signal to the brain that it’s time to begin to unwind.

2. Avoid eating food late at night that is likely to disturb your sleep: heavy, greasy, spicy, or difficult-to-digest foods like pizza, garlic, or anything really fatty. Instead try fruit (bananas or grapes) or lean protein such as tuna.

3. Get your homework done earlier in the afternoon or evening while you are still awake and alert. This will also reduce your stress if you don’t have so much homework to do in the evening close to bedtime.

4. Watch how you are spending your waking hours. Teenagers don’t typically have great time management skills. They can get caught up on social media or on their phones, which are a huge distraction and eat up that part of the day when you should be in study mode. Catch up on your social things after your homework is over.

We know that the amount of sleep that a child or teenager gets is related to how well they do in school, but it is associated with many more aspects of a teenager’s life. Dr. Maas noted that sleep is really the one thing that underlies all of good health. Good health refers to both physical and mental health. When you are getting enough sleep, stress goes down and immunity goes up. It’s linked to greater longevity and reduced risk of car accidents, cancers, and heart attacks. If teenagers could add just one more hour of sleep to their daily routine, they would find that they have a higher GPA, that their athletic skills are better, and that their social life and ability to manage stress and anxiety improve. Anxiety symptoms are being reported at epidemic rates by teenagers since the pandemic. Everything hinges on getting enough sleep. If I could tell teenagers one thing, it’s this: If you want to do well in school and on the athletic field, getting more sleep is the single best thing you can do. I have seen this in many teenagers that I see for psychotherapy. Additionally, most teenagers who are having difficulties with anxiety or suicidal thoughts are sleep deprived.

Therefore, parents it is important to make sleep an important issue with your children and and teenagers. If you explain to your children and teenagers why it should be a priority, you increase the probability that your children and teenagers will understand why sleep is important and will work with you to help them increase their amount of sleep especially as they try to adjust their schedules and lives to a post pandemic world.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims and first responders. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.

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The 4th of July after the Coronavirus

The 4th of July after the Coronavirus

The 4th of July weekend is around the corner and many teenagers will be involved in various activities. It’s a popular weekend for teenagers to be out drinking and also swimming with friends. This weekend many teenagers will be wanting to be with friends especially after being locked in due to the Coronavirus. Additionally, many things are opening up so people will be able to go places and do things that they have not been able to due to the Coronavirus. Therefore, there will be a lot of celebrating this year.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool.

With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you. Therefore, talk to your teens about their plans and about safety.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. And if you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen.

A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers. After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance.

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Teenagers Spending Summer in Their Room

Teenagers Spending Summer in Their Room

An issue that comes up daily with teenagers in psychotherapy is their bedroom. Many parents tell me that their teenager’s bedroom is like a junk yard. Parents are embarrassed by the bedroom and feel the teenager is being disrespectful. Many parents ask me should they demand that their teenager clean their bedroom. Also many parents ask about is it appropriate if they search their teenager’s bedroom. Also during the summer, but I hear it all year long, parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their room Let’s deal with this one issue at a time.

Parents it is very important to remember to pick and choose your battles. There are a lot of issues you will need to discuss with your teenager. Therefore, it is important to ask, is it worth an argument? Teenagers are at a point in their life where they do need their privacy. They are also at a point where they are trying to find their own identity. Their bedroom is a place they use for part of this process. Also you want your teenager to learn responsibility. Their room is something they can be responsible for.

My recommendation is not to make an issue of their bedroom. You have more important issues such as school, how late your teen wants to stay out, where they want to go and the common issues of alcohol, drugs and sexual activity. Therefore, their bedroom really is a minor issue. In my opinion it is not worth the fight. Arguing about their bedroom, which they view as their private space, can lead to bigger problems with some of the other issues I listed above. Also remember these are only some of the issues you will need to set guidelines and expectations about your teenager’s behavior. This is why I strongly recommend leaving the bedroom alone.

Many parents ask me, “then I should just let them live in a junk yard?” The answer is yes. However, there are some guidelines I do set with teenagers. I tell them that Mom and Dad are not going to clean their room as long as they comply with the following guidelines:

1. The bedroom door must be able to be closed so no one else has to look at the mess.

2. People can walk by the room without smelling anything such as rotting food.

3. There are no ants or bugs going into or coming out of the room.

4. They do not keep dishes in their room so Mom has dishes when she needs them.

5. They are responsible for getting their clothes out of the room and cleaned. They are also responsible for putting away their laundry.

If they do not follow these guidelines, then they are giving Mom and Dad permission to go in and clean the room as they see fit. I ask the teenager and parents to both agree to these guidelines. I also recommend writing down the guidelines. Therefore, two months from now if someone remembers the agreement differently, you have a document you can refer back to which states what everyone agreed to.

Therefore, I recommend to parents if their teenager can agree to these guidelines, let them live in a junkyard. If they forget to get their clothes to the washer then they will be the one wearing dirty clothes. This is helping them to learn responsibility. It also gives them a sense of independence which they need.

I remind teenagers, if you do not want Mom and Dad cleaning their room then they need to abide by the guidelines. I also remind them it is their responsibility to get their clothes to the washer. If they don’t then they will be wearing dirty clothes to school. I also remind them that they cannot stay home from school because they do not have any clean clothes. I am basically telling the teenager that their parents and I feel they are responsible enough to take care of their room. This again helps the teen feel more mature and understand that they have to start assuming more responsibility for theirselves.

Now for the next issue, searching your teenager’s room. I do not think it is something parents should do on a regular basis just because their child is a teenager. As parents you have a responsibility to make sure you are raising a responsible young adult and if they need help, you have an obligation to provide them with the help they need. Therefore, if you have valid reasons to believe your teenager is using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis, then yes search the room. A valid reason would be noticing the smell of marijuana on their clothes or coming from their room. Finding marijuana or alcohol bottles in their backpack or car that they use. Other signs could be changes in their behavior and grades that are associated with drug use. However, before searching the room, I would recommend when your child enters middle school that you discuss with your child about the conditions which would make you search their room. If you feel it is necessary, tell your teen that you will be searching their room. Obviously, you do not tell them a week a head of time so they can hide things. I suggest you calmly inform them when they are home that you will be starting to search their room in a few minutes. It is important you explain the reasons why you are searching their room.

Parents may be concerned about an argument. This may start an argument, but this argument is worth it. Remind your teen about the agreement the two of you had made about searching their room. If you feel your teenager is not mature enough to abide by the agreement and is likely to start a physical fight, then you do not tell them and search it when they are out of the house. Remember you are only searching the room if you feel your teen is having a serious problem and need professional help. As a parent, it is your responsibility to get them help when they need it. You will want to remember this fact because your teenager may be very angry with you. However, it is better to have an angry teenager than a dead teenager. Many of the drugs teens are using today can kill someone very quickly and teenagers are not usually aware of all the risks.

Therefore, in general respect the privacy of your teenager’s bedroom, however, if you notice signs that indicate your teen is having difficulties then search the room.

As for the last issue that becomes most apparent in the summer is parents feel teenagers spend too much time in their bedroom. They hear them staying up late, sleeping until noon and the rest of the time playing games on their laptops and talking with friends using the games. Yes this can be an issue. The best approach is to discuss this issue prior to summer. However, if you did not, it is not too late. Let your teen know you need to talk to them about their room. Do not attack telling them they are spending too much time in their room. They will simply stop listening and the discussion is over. Before talking to them think about what and why you are concerned about the time in their room. One major reason hopefully is you want the opportunity to spend some time with them. Explain your concerns and some possible solutions you have developed. At this point ask your teen how they feel and do they have any solutions. If you have a calm, caring conversation and you are willing to consider all options, you should be able to resolve the issue. Most teens want to hear that their parents care and want to spend time with them. They tend not to admit to these feeling but they are their. Also teens do better when they feel you have listened to their ideas and are not just telling them what to do.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience as a psychotherapist who teats teenagers and children. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino 3.

Fourth of July Activities and Teenage Injuries

Fourth of July Activities and Teenage Injuries

The 4th of July weekend is around the corner and many teenagers will be involved in various activities. It’s a popular weekend for teenagers to be out drinking and also swimming with friends. Most people assume these are every day activities and everyone will have a good time.

However, this is not reality. Every year 5,000 teenagers are killed in motor vehicle accidents and 400,000 are injured (CDC statistics). These injures may range from cuts and bruises to someone being paralyzed.

Also regarding swimming, there are 3,500 accidental drowning every year. And out of these drownings 1 out of 5 are teenagers (CDC statistics). This is the number who die. It doesn’t include brain injuries due to lack of oxygen to the brain or breaking a neck by diving. A broken neck can result in death, paralysis or being in a Halo Brace for 6 months. Again this is an activity we assume is safe and nothing would happen swimming in a friend’s pool.

With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, there are going to be a lot of parties and drinking. There are also going to be a lot of drunk driving accidents, drownings and accidental overdosing. You have no way to know if you or your family might be one of the unlucky families this weekend. It could be your teen who is killed or it could be you. Therefore, talk to your teens about their plans and about safety.

You never know what is going to happen in life. Especially given everything that is happening all over the world. And if you look at the above statistics, you never know when or if something is going to happen.

A mother experienced this fact when her son committed suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teenagers. After that she wrote the following poem to her son. She also encouraged all parents of teenagers to remember to say “I love you,” to your teenager. You may not get another chance.

I Love You

How could you?

They asked you,

How could you?

But you could not answer

As you were not here.

Why would you?

They asked you,

Why would you?

But their questions fell onto

The world’s deafest ears.

I loved you!

They told you,

I loved you.

But they told you too late,

Through their tears.

I’ll miss you,

They told you,

I’ll miss you.

And in death now

They hold you more dear.

The point is don’t take the risk. Since you never know what may happen and many teens feel that their parents don’t care, take the opportunity while you have it to express your feelings. Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting I never told him I loved him or wondering if that would have made the difference.

Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist is Pleasant Hill who specializes in treating children and teenagers. He has over 20 years of working with teens. To find out more about his work or to contact him visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Summer Activities and Teenage Concussions

Summer Activities and Teenage Concussions

It is summer time and school is out. Many children are engaged in summer activities such as swimming, water skiing and diving. Others are preparing for next year’s football season and cheerleaders are preparing too. While we use to assume these activities were safe, we now know they can be dangerous.

Many parents of high school athletes are aware of the dangers of concussions. Even one concussion can cause permanent damage according to recent research studies. However, there is another condition that parents need to be aware of when their child plays sports. This disorder is CTE. CTE is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) it is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head.

Our brain sits in our skull surrounded by fluid. Therefore, any time anyone hits their head or their head is jarred around, the brain moves in this fluid hitting the front and back of your skull or the sides of the skull depending on what direction the force came from. When the brain hits the skull it can cause bruising and microscopic tears of very fine nerve fibers. Nerve fibers that are too small to be seen on an MRI or a CT scan.

Physicians have known that CTE effects boxers for many years, however, it was just recently that evidence showed that football players are at risk too. This was the main focus of the movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith. The NFL did everything they could to stop the filming of this movie. The movie shows how CTE results in the patient becoming severely depressed and psychotic. Many of the patients with CTE commit suicide. Also many CTE patients were football players.

Why is this important for parents to know? It is important because CTE is caused by chronic head injuries. Head injuries that date back to when a teenager was playing high school sports. Therefore, it is important for parents to ensure that their teenager’s school is using the latest safety gear, especially for the head, and to take any head injuries seriously. There is no way to tell what will happen when these teenagers become adults.

For many years, football and schools have reported that they are developing helmets that protect the head better. However, these safer helmets are not being used in high schools or professional football. Schools and professional football are monitoring players closer after a head injury, but still little to nothing is being done to protect the brain prior to an injury.

As an adolescent psychotherapist who has been practicing for over 20 years, I am seeing more evidence of this every year. Every year I am seeing more teens with Post Concussion Syndrome. This disorder may occur after a concussion and can be associated with headaches, mood swings and memory difficulties. The teenagers who experiences this Syndrome becomes very frustrated because they are aware of the changes in their mind and because no one can say how long the symptoms will continue. In fact, no one can guarantee that the symptoms will disappear.

This becomes very frustrating to the teenager and their parents. Some teenagers are so overwhelmed that they start self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Anything that they think might help. Others become so depressed because they fear that the symptoms are permanent that they become suicidal and may attempt suicide.

For many years these head injuries in teenagers were down played because there was not enough evidence to indicate that teenagers could be impacted by head injuries. Well the research clearly indicates that teenagers can suffer long term results from a single concussion. Additionally, this can create symptoms that are overwhelming for the teenager and their family. Imagine being a parent and you see your child suffering with Post Concussion Syndrome and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Parents also become depressed and nervous that their child may never recover.

Everyone’s brain is different and so is the recovery process. This means we have no way of knowing how many Concussions or head traumas it takes before CTE is started in someone. It also means we have no way to determine how long it will take for someone to recover from a concussion or if they will have permanent impairments. We only can tell after it occurs not before.

We do know that patients recovering from Post Concussion Syndrome or dealing with CTE can benefit from psychotherapy. Often this option is not given to teenagers because again many people believe teenagers are very unlikely to suffer with these issues. However, if you look at the research it indicates that teenagers can and do suffer from Post Concussion Syndrome and teenage head injuries can cause CTE.

As a psychotherapist who treats teenagers with head injuries, I strongly encourage every parent to watch the movie, Concussion. Also before your child starts playing any competitive sports, such as football or soccer, go online and research head injuries and signs and symptoms of concussions. Also if you teenager does sustain a head injury while playing sports or just playing have them evaluated. You never know how severe a head injury is by just looking at someone. A few years ago an actress fell in the snow and her friends said to go to the doctor she said she was fine. Two hours later she was dead. When she fell she caused her brain to bleed and she died.

The lesson from this story is as your teens go swimming, camping, climbing, suffering etc., over the summer monitor if they have a head injury. It can happen as easily as two kids hitting their heads together while wrestling and playing. If you notice any changes or your teen is complaining of not feeling well have them examined by a physician. Also keep track of how many head injuries they have sustained over time. If they get a concussion by diving maybe they need to take it easy for the rest of the summer.

Above all, use your best judgement as a parent. Do not be afraid to ask for a CT scan or an MRI if your child suffers any type of head injury. If your teenager does sustain a concussion and you notice a personality change or memory issues do not hesitate to seek psychotherapy for your child and for yourselves. Also don’t hesitate to talk to your teenagers high school. If the teenager is having problems concentrating after a head injury, the school may need to provide them with accommodations until the child recovers.

This can be an overwhelming and frightening topic to consider but the more you educate yourself, the easier it will be to manage. If you have additional questions regarding the personality changes or neuropsychological changes with head injuries, please feel free to contact me.

Dr. Michael Rubino has been treating children and teenagers for over 20 years. He also has training in neuropsychology. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his website that deals with accommodations at school http://www.LucasCenter.org or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3