Rach, the “teen”
This morning I dragged myself out of bed, drove to school and promptly fell asleep in homeroom (then in math, British Literature, and physics). The girl next to be woke me up when the bell rang, “time for class”, she said. I looked around, everyone looked dead.
Older teens, like myself, thrive on sleep. And we rarely get enough. Sometimes I find myself coming home from school and sleeping until dinner. I go to bed no later than 10, and I get about 8 hours. So, my question… is 8 or 9 hours enough for a teenager?
At twelve, thirteen and fourteen, I had 12-hour days. Getting to school, being in school and then crazy long sports practices. That was totally fine then. Now I’m eighteen, and I have 7-hour days. And it’s not fine.
I’m not the only one sleeping through class. If we aren’t flat out sleeping, we’re thinking about sleeping. What’s up with that?
How come the moment we enter High School we suddenly need so much more sleep? It can’t just be our boring teachers… right?
Brad, the “dad”
There is, in fact, some complicated and impressive biological reason for this change in sleep-needs – I just don’t know what it is. I am sure, however, that the minute the Elf and the Valkyrie both hit their teens, ka-bam, their heads hit the pillow for hours upon hours. Around here, however, the problem is not with them sleeping too much; it’s getting them to acknowledge that they need to sleep more than before – like nine to ten hours a night (sleep experts say) instead of the eight to nine that indolent old dudes (like me) need.
I mean, do the math: if the Valkyrie or the Elf were really interested in getting the nine-plus hours their bodies need, they’d be going to sleep about 9:00 p.m. every night, since they have to get up at 6:00 or 6:30 a.m. And good luck getting them to go all lights-out at the same bedtime they had when they were eight years old. “Look,” I have said, “it’s not because you’re lazy or depressed or psychotically antisocial. It’s because your brain is still soft and it needs extra sleep to firm up properly.” Not that this approach is effective. In fact, it has worked exactly never. I can’t even pry the PSP out of the Elf’s hands at 9:00 in the evening; her grip strength doesn’t begin to falter until at least 11:00. (Believe me, I’ve tested it.)
So my advice, Rach, is quite simple and yet comforting: don’t feel guilty. Just get to bed.
Mary, the “mom”
As I contemplate how to answer Rach, it is 6:45 am. I’ve been up for an hour and I got to sleep about 12:30 am. So, I got just over 5 hours of sleep last night. This is the standard weekday schedule which, of course, falls far short of what I need. I try to make up for it on the weekend.
I know I could go to bed earlier. It’s all about priorities. Once I’ve finished all of my daily responsibilities, I want an hour to “veg” in front of the TV and then when I finally climb into bed, I want a half hour to read. And, at night, I want that more than sleep. Of course, come morning it looks like a bad decision.
My 16 year old averages 7 hours a night. Should he get more? Absolutely! Could he go to bed earlier? Sure! Does he admit he needs more? Of course not! Most of the time it’s him choosing to have some “down time” that keeps him up. By the time baseball practice is over and homework done, it’s already late, so “down time” cuts into sleep time.
It’s all about priorities - in this case “down time” versus sleep time. The teachers aren’t likely to get more stimulating, so you either have to go to bed earlier or figure out how to stay awake in class.
Have I mentioned caffeine?
Check out Late to Bed, Late to Rise article on ParentingTeensOnline.