January 16, 2018
TEENS AND SLEEP
Sooner or later, it happens: that cute kid who used to bound out of bed every morning chipper as a little brown squirrel metamorphosizes into a slugabed. When he finally rises, he stumbles out of bed at noon-thirty, bleary-eyed and slumping.
How did that happen?
Because of hormones, a teen’s body clock changes. So, when they were previously happy to go to bed at a decent hour, they seem to come to life when the rest of us are, well, frankly, exhausted.
Their sleep/wake pattern has changed, which not only makes them very lively late at night, but they also wake up more slowly, even when they get the nine-ish hours they need.
At the same time, they have increased demands of a more rigorous educational curriculum and homework in high school, and most high schools start quite a bit earlier than even their elementary school counterparts.
Another issue which is poorly affected by lack of sleep is driving, which usually begins in high school. But, while many people feel teaching kids how to drive should happen later, the reality is that kids who wait until they’re older to learn how to drive become really poor drivers as adults.
Unfortunately, bedtimes don’t work with a teen the way they do with younger children. A teenager who is forced to go to bed will star at the ceiling for hours. It isn’t that he is being stubborn, it’s that his biological clock is off. Thankfully, it will return to normal when he’s in his early 20’s.
Meanwhile, students should try to start school later, if possible. Parents should urge their school districts to rethink starting times, as kids who start later have been shown to have better attendance rates, higher grades, less depression and illness, and a lower rate of dropping out and attrition. So, as a result of getting more sleep, they’re better able to cope with the pressures of experimentation with drugs, sex, and alcohol.
Teens who have a calm, organized routine at an appropriate bedtime will find sleeping easier. Like any other insomnia victim, teens who turn off the electronics and have a regular bedtime pattern are telling their biological clock to slow down. If they can repeat the same pattern night after night, eventually, falling asleep will be easier.
A teen should have a clean, electronic-and-homework-free bed in a room which isn’t too warm. In fact, snuggling under the covers may help a teen sleep (but, not if they’re too cold!)
If your teen is due for a new bed, why not make that happen for them? In a few short years, they’ll be young adults, and the opportunities to help them through the difficult teenage years will have passed.