Sleeping teenagerWith all the things teens have to worry about — tests, peer relationships, competing in sports and performing in concerts and plays — it’s not unusual for them to have anxiety from time to time. Anxiety can be a good thing when it helps you to deal with a tense situation.

However, some teens experience anxiety more often or more intensely than others. These teens may find it difficult to “turn off” their minds and fall asleep at night. They end up lying in bed thinking and not sleeping.

Using relaxation techniques to help teens fall asleep

The following relaxation techniques can help reduce anxiety and negative thoughts so it’s easier to fall asleep:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is also called “belly breathing” and involves breathing in slowly to fill your belly up with air (like a balloon blowing up), and then breathing out slowly so that your belly goes in (like a balloon deflating).
  • Progressive muscle relaxation involves slowly relaxing one’s whole body by first tensing a specific muscle group and then relaxing it before next moving on to another muscle group. Eventually all the muscle groups in the body are relaxed.
  • Visual imagery involves imagining yourself somewhere that is peaceful and relaxing, such as walking along the beach or through a lovely garden on a warm spring day. As you imagine this place in your mind, you are instructed to think about what you see, hear, feel and smell in that setting.

Calming music also can be added in the background.

Teens seen in our pediatric Sleep Center can be taught relaxation techniques during a clinic appointment. They are also referred for more help with managing anxiety, when necessary.

Dawn Zahrt, PhD– Dawn Zahrt, PhD, child psychologist, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Dr. Zahrt is an expert in the evaluation and management of children with behavioral sleep disorders. She works with patients in the pediatric Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the only sleep center in the state devoted to caring for children.

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