Common barriers to healthy sleep for teens with sickle cell disease

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Learn about some of the things that can get in the way of healthy sleep, including caffeine and medications.

Key points

  • There are a lot of things that can get in the way of healthy sleep. For example, some teens don't feel tired at bedtime, find it hard to get comfortable or have worries or pain at bedtime.
  • Think about which barriers to your own sleep you think will be important to work on.
  • Having caffeine in the afternoon or evening can make you feel more alert at bedtime. Caffeine also makes your body produce more urine and lose fluid.
  • Many medications for pain or other sickle cell disease symptoms affect sleep. Talk to your health-care provider if you have questions about medications and your sleep.
Overhead view of blue Copey character sleeping on their back on a bed and drooling

Below is a list of common barriers, or problems, that get in the way of healthy sleep for many teens.

Choose the ones that you think are barriers to your own sleep and that you think will be important to work on during this program.

  • It is hard to get comfortable at bedtime.
  • I want to stay up and watch TV, or do things on my laptop, tablet or cell phone.
  • It is hard to turn off social media or to stop texting at bedtime.
  • I don’t feel tired at bedtime.
  • I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep.
  • I have too much homework to go to bed at bedtime.
  • My room is uncomfortable (too hot, cold, light or noisy).
  • The things that other people in my household are doing when I go to bed make it difficult for me to fall asleep.
  • I look at the clock and worry about not being able to fall asleep.
  • I have many worries or thoughts at bedtime.
  • I often remember something I forgot to do and have to get out of bed again.
  • My body feels wound-up or alert at bedtime.
  • I feel tired but just toss and turn instead of falling asleep.
  • I experience pain at bedtime that makes it hard to fall asleep.

Think about what other things can get in the way of your sleep.

Caffeine and sleep

If you feel alert or wound-up at bedtime, or simply if you don’t feel tired, one reason could be how much caffeine you drink during the day.

Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. It can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking chemicals in the brain that help us fall asleep. That is why a lot of people use caffeine to stay alert during the day. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, many sodas, energy drinks and some medications.

If Olivia has caffeine, adenosine cannot bind to the cell receptors and Olivia feels alert instead of sleepy.

So why should a person with sickle cell disease care about caffeine?

  • First, caffeine is a diuretic, meaning that it makes your body make more urine and lose fluid. This works against the goal of increasing fluids in your body.
  • Second, because caffeine can make people alert, having caffeinated foods or drinks in the late afternoon or evening can make it harder for you to fall asleep.

For some teens, an important lifestyle change is to stop drinking caffeinated drinks after lunch and switch to non-caffeinated drinks as much as possible.

Medications and sleep

Many medications for pain and other disease symptoms affect a person’s sleep. Some may make you feel drowsy, and others may make it hard for you to sleep through the night.

Some teens also take medications to help with sleep problems. If you have any questions about medicines and your sleep, talk with your health-care provider.

However, as you will learn in this module, the best way to make long-term improvements in your sleep is to improve your sleep habits.

Last updated: January 4th 2024