You mean it's natural for teens to stay up late?
That's right. Studies show that high school students' natural time to fall asleep is around 11 p.m.-partly because they're so revved up from all their evening activities. This isn't a problem when they're able to sleep in. Over winter break, for instance, many kids stay up past midnight, then get up at 10 or 11 a.m. and feel really great.
But my teen needs to wake up at 6:30 a.m. for school.
School schedules often conflict with teens' sleep tendencies. When this happens, shift your teen to a bedtime that is early enough for him to get at least 81/2 hours a night, which parents do find to be a realistic goal. So if your child needs to get up by 6:30 in order to catch the bus, strive for a 10 p.m. bedtime. The best way to adjust a kid's schedule is by rolling back his bedtime by 15-minute increments every two or three days.
Any tips I can use to get my teen to bed earlier tonight?
For starters, try to get technology out of the bedroom. That means no TV, computer, game station, or Xbox. These things entice teens to stay up late; and the lights and sounds also trick the teen brain into thinking it isn't nighttime, which further prevents sleepiness from setting in. If banishing these distractions isn't feasible, you may need to set a time with your teen when all media gets shut down for the night.
As for other habits that encourage an earlier bedtime: Make sure your teen is exposed to light as soon as possible after rising. Taking the dog for a walk, going for a jog, or just throwing open the curtains signals the brain that it's daytime; it activates the internal clock and programs the sleep system to slow down by evening. It's also really important to encourage teens to get the caffeine out of their diets. Ideally, you need 10 hours without caffeine for good sleep, which means no caffeinated soda or energy drink after noon.