You may blame morning sleepiness on too much late-night television. But today leading researchers agree that biology plays a large role. Recent research conducted at sleep disorder clinics indicates that during puberty, kids exhibit “delayed phase preference,” meaning that they feel more active later in the day than early in the morning. (The clinicians could simply have interviewed parents to find that out!)
Teenagers who don't get enough sleep won't perform well all day; they may feel groggy in class, zone out on tests, and muddle through sports practice or gym class. Teens who lack sleep also tend to forget things and get confused.
The number of hours of sleep a teen needs varies, but averages between seven and nine hours a night. Teens going through growth spurts need even more, because as they sleep their growth cells are busy regenerating.
While napping can compensate, it's a rare teen who will lie down for a nap. Instead, you can hope that your teen will grab the extra sleep he needs on weekends. Don't bug him for sleeping late when he can—he needs it.
Otherwise, if you really think your teen is burning the candle at both ends, you might suggest that he drop or reschedule an activity so he can buy more time. Or, you may have luck with an “in your room and off the phone by 10 P.M.” (or other pre-designated hour) rule on weeknights. Like adults, kids need the right inducements for going to sleep. By removing some of the stimuli around your teen, it may make it easier for him to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
The Wake-Up Call
Mornings are tough for everyone, no doubt about it. Yet by this age, your teen needs to take responsibility for getting himself going in the morning. If he's having a rough time, you might suggest the following strategies:
- Set the wake-up alarm earlier than necessary, so he can hit the snooze button once.
- Use a really annoying, loud alarm, and place the clock on the other side of the room so he has to get out of bed to shut it off.
- Make a deal: If he'll use the alarm to get going, you'll step into the room just to make sure he's up. (This works well if you have a pet who'll finish up the waking-up for you.)
- If he's always running late, tell him you expect him to start getting up earlier—that neither you nor the carpool or bus driver will wait for him, and you'll be upset if he's regularly late for school.
- Teach him to load his backpack, fix and refrigerate his lunch, and get his clothes ready the night before so he has as little as possible to do in the morning.