Below is a old post from waaay back in our early days of blogging… it may be old but the same rules apply when it comes to teens & sleep so I’m re-posting today. I’d love to hear if you all have found any new tricks for managing sleep routines in your house- leave your comments below!
It’s always a hard call each Saturday morning as my kids snuggle into their blankets and try to shut out the morning sun- do I wake them or let them enjoy a few more hours of weekend sleep? I often reminisce on my own teenage years, sleeping till noon or even 2pm on weekends… how I used to enjoy those lazy days. But as I look at my own kids I can’t help but think of recent studies that I have read on adolescent sleep. Turns out the those days of “catching up” on my sleep as a kid were not such a great idea. Allowing our kids to sleep in late on the weekend actually makes it harder for them to get up on Monday mornings… and let’s not even talk about what a whole summer of sleeping in does!
In fact there is a lot of interesting new research on adolescent sleep. For instance, did you know that those late night hours that your teenager is keeping may actually be the result of a shift in their biological clock? Mary Carskadon at Brown University has done some enlightening work that suggests somewhere around the beginning of adolescence (researchers generally consider adolescence as ages 11-20) our internal circadian rhythm (i.e. sleep clock) moves back, making our bodies perk up during the late evening, just when parents are trying to get kids to go to bed!
I’ve written an article for Associated Content on this research- you can find it here. It includes some useful tips on helping kids get to sleep and helping them establish good “sleep habits” that will last a lifetime. For example, in spite of the fond memories of my own Saturdays sleeping till noon, it really is best to encourage our kids to keep a relatively consistent sleep schedule. That means waking up those sleepy heads within 2-3 hours of their usual wake up time for school.
Here are a few more suggestions:
- Take your teenager back to their early childhood with audiobooks. Using audiobooks to lull yourself to sleep can help teens focus on something relaxing and begin to shut down their thoughts. With the academic challenges and many peer dramas that usually accompany middle and high school, having a tool to help turn off racing minds can go a long way to getting some rest.
- Use light to signal the body that sleep is coming. While researchers are finding that during adolescence our sleep patterns are less reactive to light, it still triggers our brain to know when its time for sleep. Try to have your child turn off all but 1 lamp in their room (or wherever they are) about an hour before bed. Turn off TVs and computers as the flickering light from them can really disrupt the bodies signals to begin relaxing.
- You can also use light to help wake up grumpy teens for school. I have used an automatic timer (the kind you might get for your Christmas tree lights) for years. It turns on a lamp in my kid’s room about 20 minutes before their alarm goes off easing the transition from deep sleep to waking. The artificial light helps to signal that morning is here and begins to rouse their sleeping bodies. It’s an especially useful trick in winter months when many kids need to be awake, dressed, and heading to the school bus before the sun is up!
Try these tips and tell me what you think. Or do you have your own tips on helping kids (and adults) get better sleep or wake up happier in the morning? Tell us all about it in the comments!