Help, My Teen Wants to Sleep All Day
“My teen wants to stay up all night and sleep all day.” I’ve heard many parents say this. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Some parents attribute this tendency to stay up late and “sleep the day away” as “lazy” or “irresponsible.” Me…I’m just jealous. I wish I could sleep all morning, but my internal clock just won’t allow it. Oh wait…that may give us a hint as to what’s going on with our teens as well. Let me explain…but first a little more information about teens and sleep.
The National Institute of Health suggests that teens need about 9 hours of sleep a night. However, a survey of 27,939 suburban high school students in the United States suggests that only 3% of teens get that much sleep. The teens completing the survey averaged 6.5 hours of sleep per night with 20% getting less than five hours of sleep a night. In other words, teens are sleepy. Even worse, with every hour of sleep lost (under an average of 9 hours per night), the teens surveyed showed a 38% increase in the odds of feeling sad or hopeless, a 42% increase in the possibility of considering suicide, a 58% increase in attempting suicide (There is an interesting table about suicide in relation to getting up early for school in Let Teenagers Sleep – Scientific American), and a 23% increase in substance abuse. Those are alarming statistics, aren’t they? Obviously, we need to find a way to help our teens get a good night’s rest.
Back to the “internal clock hint.” Our internal clocks are partially set by the natural release of melatonin in our bodies. According to research, teens have a delayed release of daily melatonin. As a result, they get sleepy later in the evening than adults…and they sleep in longer. In other words, their natural internal clock is set to stay up late and sleep in longer each morning. It’s not laziness or irresponsibility, it’s hormonal changes. Still, teens still have to get up early for school. They still need to get a good night’s rest. So how can we help them get the sleep they need?
- Establish a healthy bedtime routine before the preteen years. Get your children into a healthy routine that includes slowing down toward the end of the day. This nighttime routine might include talking with you or time reading a book (paper books preferred over digital, by the way). Your children and teens may also benefit from time to talk about and resolve daily stresses and time to express daily gratitude.
- Avoid “blue light” 2-3 hours before bedtime. You may also want to look at glasses that filter blue light for your teens. (Learn more in How to Manage Blue Light for Better Sleep (webmd.com))
- Maintain the bedroom as a place for sleep not screens. Keep the video games and TV’s out of the bedroom, which is meant for sleep. Keep them in other living areas designed for play or family interaction. Let the bedroom be a place of rest and sleep.
- Keep the bedroom dark at night. Turn off the lights. We sleep best in quiet, dark places.
- Do your best to maintain a calm household, a home free of unnecessary drama. Let your home be a haven of peace and rest, a place where your children know they are safe and accepted.
- Allow short naps, “power naps,” when needed. Your teen likely comes home from school tired. They may need a short “refresher,” a nap.
- Talk with your teens about the need for sleep and ask them what would help them get the sleep they need. Your teen is wise. Involve them in the problem-solving process. They may surprise you with creative and effective solutions.
These practices will help initiate the opportunity for your teens to get the sleep they need. What other suggestions would you add?