Is Your Teen Too Tired?
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
Many teens argue that they "don't have time" to sleep.
Parents must encourage their kids to make choices. Teens may need help
realizing there aren't enough hours to play soccer, hold down a job, and do
homework. Something may have to give, and it shouldn't be sleep.
Is it OK to let my teen sleep in on weekends?
I'm all for kids catching up-within reason. It's fine for her to sleep an
extra hour or two on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But "binge sleeping"
can backfire: If a teen goes to bed late, then sleeps until 1 p.m. on weekends,
come Sunday night, her body and brain aren't going to be ready for an earlier
What else will help?
A later school start time. Most high school classes begin between 7 and 8
a.m. When the first bell is pushed back by an hour, kids will sleep nearly an
hour more a day. In communities that have done this, the evidence shows fewer
students arriving late to school, higher graduation rates, and a trend toward
Otherwise, my mantra for families is "make sleep a positive
priority." Teach your children the importance of getting enough sleep; help
them see how their sleep habits have a direct connection to how well they feel
and perform. To my mind, sleep education is almost as important to a child's
health and future as sex education-but luckily, it's a whole lot easier to talk