Teenagers: Late Bed Times
Young teenagers going to bed late causes arguments and stress in lots of households. If you are reading this article it is likely that it is causing a problem in your house too.
Why Teenagers Like to Stay Up Late
It is easy to assume that teenagers like to stay up late simply to push boundaries and underline their growing independence. Sure this is likely to be part of the issue, but there are scientific reasons why teenagers are just not ready for an early night.
Our bodies produce a chemical called melatonin. This is referred to as a "darkness hormone" and helps us to fall asleep. In a typical adult the body starts to release melatonin at around 10pm. For a typical teenager this chemical does not start to kick in until about 3 hours later at around 1am. Therefore the majority of teenagers simply have a problem with going to sleep at what you as a parent may feel is a reasonable time.
Why is Melatonin Released Later?
It is hard to say why this chemical is released later in the day with teenagers. There is a view that playing computer games and watching television can cause the delay, but there appear to be few studies available that compare today's melatonin release times with before computer games became as widely available and played as they are today. The other school of thought is that it is just part and parcel of a teenager going through puberty.
The late release of melatonin is certainly unfortunate. While they are going through puberty a teenager actually needs more sleep than the average adult or younger child to cope with all the changes that are taking place within their body.
This is one of the key reasons why teenagers tend to catch up on their sleep whenever they get a chance, for example at weekends.
In other parts of the world schools open later in the day so that children can learn at times that suit their body clocks.
Good old fashioned peer pressure plays a role in encouraging teenagers to stay up later than they did in earlier generations. Many teenagers are now in communication until the early hours of the morning either texting on mobile phones or talking via Facebook and other social networking platforms.
How Much Sleep Does a Teenager Need
Your average teenager needs around 9 hours sleep per night. This means that if they wake up at 7 o'clock in the morning they need to be asleep by 10pm in order to get the magical 9 hours. That's not always easy as that is 3 hours before melatonin kicks in. If they get up at 7.30am then they ideally need to be asleep by 10.30pm.
As you can see it is unfortunate that senior schools in the U.K. tend to start their day earlier than junior and infant schools.
So How Do You Get Teenager's Into Bed Earlier?
Just as with other parenting problems there is no "magic wand" answer. There is no doubt that a lot of teenagers need more sleep than they are getting. Going to school tired can has an impact of school work, but there is no simple solution available to parents.
It can help your own stress levels if you understand a little about how the problem originates and why it exists.
Aside from that your success or otherwise in getting your teenagers into bed early is likely to depend on your negotiating skills and the strength of your overall relationship with your teenager.
It can help if your teenager is active in the early part of the evening. If they undertake fairly rigorous sporting activities it may make them tired earlier. In the main though you are fighting a battle against the way their body works. Even if you send them to bed at an earlier time you may find they have a lot of trouble sleeping. It is a fact that most teenagers find it physically difficult to go to sleep before 10pm.
Factors to Keep an Eye Out For
Most teenagers can cope with a little less than ideal levels of sleep. Some factors that may suggest they are not getting enough sleep include:
- . Struggling to get out of bed in the morning
- . Falling grades at school
- . Drinking a lot of beverages with caffeine (Coca Cola, Red Bull, Tea, Coffee etc.)
- . Gaining weight
- . Poor health
- . Being forgetful
Depression in teens has also been linked to a lack of sleep.
One problem for parents is all of these factors can be applied equally to plenty of other issues that affect teenagers, so it is hard to determine if problems your child is encountering are directly related to late bedtimes.
There are sensible boundaries you can put in place, especially if it is possible that late night stimulation does have an impact on being able to get off to sleep. These boundaries could include no video games or Facebook after a certain time. Again trying to implement these boundaries can lead to their own issues as you are looking to curtail the late evening activities your teenager is likely to enjoy the most.
If you are trying to impose these restrictions you will find it a lot harder if there are computers and televisions in your teenager's bedroom.
As with most things involved with parenting, routines help. Therefore if you have an agreed bedtime that your teenager sticks to every night then this can make the situation a lot easier to handle. Cutting down on weekend sleep can make it easier to keep to the week day routines as getting up late and going to bed even later at weekends can make it much harder to get back into routines on school days.