With new studies rolling in every year about how important sleep is to children and teenagers, to their growth and minds and education, and schools dragging their collective feet about the doctor-recommended changes to traditional school schedules, it’s clear that it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their teen gets as much sleep as possible.
But teenagers notoriously only like to sleep in the morning. Preferably as late as possible. Until schools see the light and start classes later, it’s pretty vital to convince your teen to take to bed with the sun. But how to make them want to cooperate?
Believe it or not, by trusting them to make that decision. Instead of a rigid bedtime, use reason. A few tips:
- Do your own research and share it with them. Research what kinds of sleep we need, so you can teach your kid about sleep cycles, and about what happens to a sleep-deprived brain. Memory storage barely even starts to take place before the six-hour mark, so if they’re having trouble retaining lessons or lyrics to their favorite band, maybe that will help motivate them.
- Sleep diaries are dorky, but a lot of kids actually love treating themselves as a science experiment. Get them to record when they go to bed, how long it takes to fall asleep, and how they feel on waking up. Note dreams, sick days, and moods. Do it yourself, if you like. It might be fun to compare. For older students, they can chart their test scores against their sleep habits. Or compete with you for who gets the most sleep. If they’re a tech-loving sort, there are apps for this that even score a night’s sleep based on movement in bed.
- Apply some good habits to yourself. Keep sleeping schedules as regular as you can. Keep bedrooms quiet and dark, and for sleeping only as much as possible (this is easier for you than your teen: the whole house is yours, they only have the one room. Ensuring they have private time in the house at large might go a long way), and avoid blue-tinted screens like phones and computers for an hour before sleep, or install apps that tint your screen-light redder as the hour gets later. Naps are also good, so long as they’re sort.
- Teens need more sleep than almost any other age group, and in longer uninterrupted periods. You can’t make them sleep with rules, you have to help them absorb just how important it is. Good, consistent rest can reduce their risk of everything from failed tests to illness to car accidents to depression, and the habits may well persist their entire lives.