As a dad, one of the most trying tasks of parenthood can be getting your kids to go to sleep and then getting them out of bed in the morning. Teenagers are a challenge when it comes to sleep. They usually don’t want to get off their digital devices at night and can get crabby when you try and roust them for school. So, why won’t your teenager get up on time?
Your Teenager is Hard-Wired to Hassle You
Neuroscientists Dr. Sarah Blakemore did a fascinating TED Talk on teen brains and says your teenager finds it difficult to take direction from you at a biological level. So, when you tell them to stop what they’re doing and go to bed, their pre-frontal cortex might be telling them not to listen to you. While it’s irritating, it’s also not a conscious decision to defy you, although it can feel that way.
Your Teenager’s Sleep Cycle is in Constant Flux
Circadian rhythms determine your sleep cycle. In adults, they trigger wake when the sun comes up and sleepiness when it goes down. But thanks to the raging hormones coursing through your teenager, they don’t process these cues as you do. What seems like rebellious behavior is just body chemistry working against them (and you). Their body tells them to stay up later and sleep in the next day.
Your Teen is the Victim of Their Changing Body
Melatonin is another important trigger to good sleep. Adults naturally release melatonin in the evening, and that’s what gives you that nice sleepy feeling so that you can nod off. In teenagers, their melatonin begins to secrete hours later preventing them from feeling sleepy until much later and triggering a sleep cycle that would keep them in bed later the next day – messing up their school schedule and your day.
Your Teenager Does Not Get Enough Sleep Most Nights
Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep each night, but if they get a late start and have to be up for an 8 am school start, the math doesn’t align. That leads to ill consequences from sleep deprivation. It also sets the stage for your big kid to come home, crash for a desperately-needed nap, further throwing off their sleep. It can turn into a vicious cycle that can aggravate you and them.
How to Help Your Teenager Sleep Better
Since the school system won’t accommodate your teenager’s biological imperative, it’s up to you and your kid to find workable solutions. Here’s a quick list of things to try and help them get a better night’s sleep and get out of bed on time.
-Kick caffeine and sugar from their diets (it also helps curb acne).
-Make sure they have a comfortable bed, and their room is cool, dark, and quiet at night.
-Make a rule to turn off digital devices at least an hour before bedtime (expect pushback).
-Don’t let them nap – encourage some exercise to perk them up instead.
-Banish TV and computers from their room if you can.
-Lower the lights closer to bedtime and turn down the brightness on devices.
-Discuss the importance of sleep and how you can work together to improve things.
Unless you have obligations on the weekends, it’s a good time to be an indulgent dad and let your teenager sleep in a bit and catch up on sleep. Allowing them a morning or two to sleep late as a reward for them bending to better habits during the week.