From the time our kiddos are babies, sleep (or rather, the lack thereof) is always a hot topic during motherhood. When raising kids, there never seems to be enough sleep. Even if we did crack the sleep code of young kids and figured out a bedtime schedule that worked, as our kids turn into teens, everything changes. These nocturnal creatures seem to be perfectly happy to stay up at all hours of the night – gaming, snacking, or finally wanting to talk to us as we are about to turn out our lights. If you find yourself raising an insomniac zombie (or one who prefers to be up all night and sleep long into the morning), know that you are not alone!
Teens are biologically wired for later sleep schedules. Why? I have no idea and have never heard anyone actually explain the reason. But the experts all agree: teens’ brains simply function on a different schedule. The consensus of these experts, both child psychology and medical experts say that the amount of sleep (recommended 8-10 hours per night) matters most, not when it’s attained. So, as frustrating as your kid’s sleeping habits can be, know that it is normal and as long as they get enough sleep somewhere, they’ll be just fine.
Obviously, there are still times our kids will need to wake earlier or be on a better schedule. Breaking them of their vampire night-life ways can be tricky. Here are some tips and ideas to work your teen towards a more normal schedule:
Set The Stage
If you decide to make some changes to your kid’s sleeping habits, communicating the why with them and giving them some power in the process is huge. One great thing about teens is they are capable of reason and rational thought, use this to your benefit. Find a time to sit down as a family in a setting that doesn’t feel confrontational (supper, a car ride, etc…Aim for somewhere that they are in a good mood and a somewhat “captive audience” state.) Start with a non-attacking and disarming statement such as “I’ve noticed we’ve gotten into some wild sleeping patterns as a family. I was recently reading about the importance of sleep for physical and mental health and I’d like to discuss with you guys some ways our family can aim toward a more healthy routine.”
Explain The Science
Once you have set the stage that the whole family is going to be striving towards healthier habits, give your kids a brief run down on the importance of sleep. Sleep is vital for all of our mental and physical health. People who get an adequate amount of sleep each night are happier, healthier and more productive. Your teens likely already know this, and will have few protests on that point. This next one is where things can get tricky… 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. Between the blue light, the visual stimulation, and the added thoughts running through your brain, it is well documented that screen time before bed greatly effects the ability to fall asleep and the quality of sleep once you get there. Make sure and include yourself as you tell your kids that ALL of you are going to be adhering to the new rules and allow them to come up with a reasonable “screens off” time in the evening. Once that time hits, help them find other ways to occupy themselves in calming ways such as family game time, reading books, or discovering a hobby. Do remember that teens function on a later schedule, so you may compromise on a time that still honors that for them.
Stick With It
Your kids may not be thrilled with the new rules at first, but hopefully over time they will see the benefits of better nights and begin to get more on board with the process! Hopefully you will all be getting more quality rest and a more regular routine soon! Good luck!