The stay-home days of COVID brought more than togetherness, online everything, and a little stir-craziness. They also brought out the night owls in many of us, including our kids. Unlike the sleep struggles we faced with babies and toddlers, this is a new kind of sleep battle we face.
Here at Moms of Tweens and Teens the question was framed and asked:
What to do when my teenager is staying up late and sleeping in all day?
How do you get your kids to get to bed at a reasonable hour and to wake up at a reasonable hour? Are you letting it go?
And many answered! Here is a sampling of the broad range of sleep issues Moms of teens have been experiencing:
“Both of my kiddos have been staying up later than normal they are 13 and 11. I don’t mind as long as I’m awake. Lucky for them I tend to be a night owl. However, When I go to bed, so does everyone else. I also collect electronics before bed.”
“I’m not yet brave enough to let it happen. Mine is 14. Up by 8 and in Bed by 10.”
“My boys are 17 and 13. Sometimes they stay up all night and sometimes they don’t. I stopped giving my 17yo a bedtime when he started high school and let him suffer natural consequences, so he’s a more responsible with his time now. I started noticing my 13yo was awake at 530a when I get up for work and was sleeping until I got home at 530p! — So I said he can go to sleep whenever he wants but my older son will be waking him up at 1030a everyday. It’s been about a week and he’s finally starting to go to sleep around 12-1a. I don’t mind that time during summer break.”
During the stay-home period, many moms seemed to feel flexibility with bedtimes was a little something nice to give to teens who were missing out on so much.
As school wound down and we found ourselves in summer vacation season, crazy sleep schedules naturally carried over.
For those who aren’t dealing with extremes, or exhaustion, this might be fine for summertime. Fall school schedules will bring more normalcy.
But for those who are struggling, don’t lose hope (or more sleep!), there are some things you can try.
The consensus of experts, both child psychology and medical, seems to be that it’s the amount of sleep that matters most, not when it’s attained. Teens are biologically wired for later sleep schedules.
With this in mind, honor what fits for your family. Family therapists tout the value of regular family meetings – and these would provide an excellent opportunity to discuss how sleep habits and screen-time/videogames are working within your home.
Regardless of the hours you agree to, most sleep specialists agree that screen-time of any kind too close to going to sleep disrupts sleep (the Committee on Adolescence for the American Academy of Pediatrics). They suggest about 30 minutes of non-screen activity before going to bed.
This all works if you have kids who buy into this process. If that’s not the case, child psychologists suggest encouraging “small steps towards improving their routine. Dial back the time they wake up slightly instead of making drastic changes.” As we saw in one of our reader’s comments, this approach seems to naturally lead to teens going to bed a little earlier. Perhaps this approach will help you get somewhat more reasonable bedtimes for your kids, and at the very least, a little more sleep and peace of mind for you.
Above all, know that you’re not alone. “COVID Night-owls” is a real term that has been given to teens during the pandemic. There’s no one right way to handle this – only the way that’s right for your family.