Is your house full of tension in the mornings due to you attempting to unsuccessfully wake up your teen in time for school? Does your teen stumble to the breakfast table half-asleep? Or maybe he or she doesn’t even make it to breakfast because of sleeping in a few extra minutes? If so, you’re not alone. Many parents find themselves in a similar situation. The fact of the matter is, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, teens are “notorious for not getting enough sleep.” Just how much is enough sleep? The recommendation of pediatricians is between 9 and 9 ½ hours. At first glance, this sounds doable. However, there are two factors that make this goal difficult to achieve. First, teenagers undergo a biological change after puberty, which affects their internal clock by two hours. If your teen used to go to sleep at 9:30 PM, he or she won’t feel naturally tired until 11:30 PM. The second factor that poses a real challenge for your teen is the school start time. Many schools start as early as 7:00 AM, and 40 % start before 8:00 AM which means he or she won’t be getting near enough sleep. Without adequate sleep, your teen faces a host of other problems. Here are 5 suggestions to help get your child to school in the morning.
Keep the schedule to a minimum
With all of the activities, sports, homework, and social time with friends, it is challenging to shrink the schedule. However, too many activities, especially after school, will stimulate your teen and make falling asleep even more difficult. Attempt to help your teen narrow down his or her activities to a select few. Also, be sure the activities can be completed early, so that he or she can begin to unwind well before bedtime.
Have a predictable bedtime routine
Create a soothing and relaxing bedtime routine that aims to have your teen in bed at the same time each night for sufficient sleep. Since your teen may not feel tired due to the internal clock changes, you will need to work to create an atmosphere conducive to sleep. Begin by dimming the lights in the house an hour or so before bed and turn off all screens. Playing soft music may aid in the relaxation process. Also, have your teen take a warm bath in the evenings.
Make bedtime rewarding
Provide a bedtime incentive for your teen. Nothing kills sleep like dreading to go to sleep. On the contrary, if positive feelings are associated with going to bed, then relaxation, pleasure, and sleep occur. Buy him or her something special to go along with the bedtime routine time. Possibly lavender-scented oils to add to the bath will work wonders for relaxation. However, you need to make the incentive customized for your teen. What works for one may not work for another. Just be sure the incentive doesn’t stimulate the mind. Another simple way to make going to bed earlier rewarding is to spend some time with your teen during the process. Make yourself part of the routine. Would your teen like a back or neck massage? Get creative — you know your child best.
Ask your doctor about melatonin
If your teen is experiencing real difficulty falling asleep due to insomnia, melatonin may be the answer. Melatonin is a hormone that is available over the counter and is used for short periods to help with insomnia. Some sources do not recommend children or teens to use it because it is a hormone. In some countries, you have to have a prescription to obtain it. Neurologist, David Seiden, medical director of the Baptist Sleep Center, said often times melatonin is not used properly. It comes in one to three milligrams dosage, but only a half of a milligram is needed. He also advises teens take it in the afternoon, not right before bedtime. The safest route to take is to get the advice of your doctor when it comes to taking melatonin or any other herbal supplements.
Advocate for later school time
Health experts, parents, and scientists all agree that teens need more sleep. However, starting school so early makes it extremely challenging. Advocating for schools to push their start times to later is important. Notable health groups have weighed in on the topic now that the research confirms that teens need more sleep at that age and their clock is shifted by two hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is one such group that has spoken out in defense of a later start time for high school. Oxford and Harvard researchers have even advocated for school beginning as late as 10:00 AM so that the “biological wake-up time” is “properly aligned.” One school that did change their start time to 8:30 AM saw positive results. Nurses and counselors had less problems and complaints from students once the change took place.
Helping your teen get a restful night of sleep is an important task. At Tenney School, we are committed to every child’s education and proactively seek ways to improve upon the education experience. If you would like to discuss this topic further, we would love for you to contact us!