Your Teenager Needs to Sleep
Teenagers need as much or more sleep than the younger children in your family. The difference is that in most cases, they are not getting it. This occurs for several reasons. To begin with, a teenager experiences a shift in their internal rhythms that causes them to be alert at night and sleepy in the morning. This is all very well and good, but teens actually start their days earlier than any other school group, so they have less time available for sleep at the time of day when they really need it. In fact, they are called upon to be alert and attempt to learn at the worst possible part of their day, physiologically speaking.
Your teen knows that he or she is suffering, but teenagers lack the kind of reliable impulse control and decision making skill to take action and solve the problem. A high school student is more likely to take up a coffee habit than they are to give up their right to late nights. Evening is when your teen feels best, physically speaking, which means they don't want to go to bed even while they recognize that they might regret that choice in the morning.
Rather than taking action to increase nightly sleep, teens will attempt to apply short-term solutions to their long-term problem. One way to do this is to attempt to make up missed sleep over the weekends and vacations from school that every teen is subject to. This seems like a great idea as sleeping in on the weekend feels absolutely wonderful, but what your teen is really doing is throwing his or her whole schedule out of whack.
A tired teen who sleeps in Saturday and Sunday is full of energy on Sunday night before going back to school. This leads to staying up later just in time to get up even earlier to return to school on Monday. Other solutions, as already mentioned, have been to drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks, but this works no better because caffeine stays in the body for up to five hours. Late night coffee then leads to later evenings altogether-and groggier mornings. Student end up falling asleep at home, in class, or even at the wheel. This cannot be allowed.
What Can You Do?
Though your teen is probably somewhat independent when it comes to choosing when are where to sleep, have a conversation with him or her about bedtime. Use this time to set expectations about weekday schedules and stress the importance of at least nine hours of sleep. In addition, suggest that your teen refrain from drinking caffeinated drinks after lunch.
Finally, give your teen a little extra boost in the morning in the form of sunlight. Early application of bright full spectrum light will help your teen's brain to wake up, get up, and go. These tips may not alter your child's internal clock, but they will help him or her come to terms with the fact that it is at variance with the world.
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