How Teens Can Catch Up on Sleep
Consider a nap. Make it between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., and don't let it last more than 20 or 30 minutes. If your teen sleeps longer, they'll get into a deep sleep and may wake up even groggier.
Sleep in (a little) on weekends. Some experts say just let your teen sleep in 1 hour past their school-day wakeup time. The theory? If you let teens sleep too late, you're shifting their body clocks to be set later. It will make it even harder for them to get up on Monday morning. Others say letting them sleep until 9 a.m. is OK.
Have a bedtime routine. When your teen was a small child, maybe you read them a book and gave them a bath before tucking them in. Even now, a quiet routine can help them wind down and fall asleep more easily. Suggest that they read or listen to quiet music to help them wind down.
Cut back on activities. If your teen is really busy, maybe it's time to re-evaluate priorities so sleep can move up the list. "Extracurricular activities should not get scheduled at the expense of sleep," says Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, associate director of the Sleep Center of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Sleeping Through the Night. "Learning is the most important activity of teens, and sleep is critical for that learning to occur."
Take away technology. Banish computers, cell phones, TVs, and video games from your teen's room. The lure of texting and other fun might tempt your teen to stay awake when they should be sleeping. Screens should be shut off at least 1 hour before bedtime. The blue light from the screens stimulates their brains and makes it seem like they should be awake.
Talk to the school. See if a later start time is a possibility. If homework takes an unreasonable amount of time, talk to teachers.
Following the Rules
On top of all the time commitments and changing body clock issues, there's still the problem that teens just don't want to go to bed early. Set boundaries and consequences. For example, if they aren't sticking to bed times and they are old enough to drive, you can take away the car keys.
Owens did a study where she compared doctors' driving skills when they were sleep deprived to their skills when they were mildly drunk. The doctors were better drivers when they had been drinking vs. when they were tired. (Makes you think twice about letting your tired teenager get behind the wheel, doesn't it?)
"One of the most important things you can do for your kids is to make sure they get enough sleep," says Owens. "They'll perform better, plus they'll be nicer human beings to deal with."