Three Things to Teach Your Teen About Sleep and Their Brain | Deborah Farmer Kris | 4 Min Read

When I was a college freshman, I pulled my first all-nighter. After triumphantly printing out the English paper, I dragged my roommate to the dining hall for breakfast. 

“Can you hand me a . . . you know . . . that, um, stick with a circle-thingy on it,” I asked her.

“You mean this?” she said, holding up a spoon. 

Sleep — and the lack of it — does powerful things to the brain. My inability to recall the word “spoon” became an inside joke, but it also reveals some powerful insights that we can share with teens about why sleep benefits them. 

Parents who are concerned about their adolescents’ sleep (or other!) habits will often warn kids of the consequences of their choices.  But remember, teens are more motivated by pleasure than pain. So focusing on the positive outcomes of good choices is often more powerful than emphasizing the negative consequences of poor choices. 

Here are three insights worth sharing.

1. Sleep is a study strategy

Students often think that it’s a choice between studying or sleeping. But it’s not an either-or proposition: sleep is a study strategy. Lack of sleep slows our mental recall — which…

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Deborah Farmer Kris

A writer, teacher, parent, and child development expert, Deborah Farmer Kris writes regularly for PBS KIDS for Parents and NPR’s MindShift; her work has been featured several times in The Washington Post; and she is the author of the All the Time picture book series (coming out in 2022) focused on social-emotional growth. A popular speaker, Deborah has a B.A. in English, a B.S. in Education, and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology. Mostly, she loves finding and sharing nuggets of practical wisdom that can help kids and families thrive — including her own. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris, contact her at [email protected], or visit her website: Parenthood365 (