It's 8 a.m. Your teen's alarm has gone off at least five times and your knocks on the door have been responded to by grunts that could only be understood by prehistoric man (if they had alarm clocks then). Its not the first time, nor the 21st time; the truth is you've lost count of how many times you have struggled to get them up and get them to school. Where did it all go wrong? There are two answers to this question:
First, biology. Teenagers tend to produce melatonin at roughly 1 a.m. (vs. 10 p.m. for adults) and so there is a biological reason for teenagers staying up late and sleeping in late. Also, their new talent at being able to get beyond their fatigue for all-nighters is something that kicks in 15 seconds past puberty.
Second, the temptations of the cave. Teenagers have so many available distractions in their bedrooms. A room that once was for sleeping, walkie-talkies and the occasional flashlight-lit magazine has become a portal to every virtual or real friend, movie, game or song ever created.
What starts off as just "killing time to fall asleep" becomes an every-growing cyclone of sleep deprivation. It feeds on itself and sleeping late on weekends can only make it worse.
Truthfully, I think it is next to impossible to get someone to wake up when they are habitually sleep deprived and the results are never pleasant (think Frankenstein and the flower scene).
Now, your child has probably figured out the hard way that the send button on his/her email or text program is not their friend at 3 a.m., but that lesson is usually learned after the fact. We have to take a different way to look at finding a solution to the whole problem.
Teens must first believe that there is a problem. (An outside mentor comes in handy at this point.) They then have to analyze what are the best parts of their night-time adventures and pick their favourites from most to least enjoyable.
Let them organize what the best times for each of their favourite few past times should be and the approximate length of each (leaving a lot of room for variation). This is followed by a new and enjoyable routine for preparing to go to sleep.
Sleep Routine: Whether it is old movies, music, audio books or a real book (Kindle or paper), let them choose something they enjoy to become part of their night-time sleep routine. Suggest that they start with an easily achieved sleep-time (if they are presently going to bed at 3 a.m. suggest 1 a.m. etc.) and also suggest they incorporate an hour of "bed prep," listening or reading in sleeping position.
An enjoyable ritual will still take about a month to become a regular habit. An alarm clock ringing every 15 minutes across the room is a great thing, but more important is figuring out how much time they need to wake up: Fireman style (just-in-time) or Frankenstein-style (an hour of talk-free, groaning-filled wake-up time).
You will be amazed at the changes an enjoyable sleep routine and the right wake-up style can bring. Pleasant dreams everyone!
To see more about Ken's work with teens, visit www.reallifecoaching.ca.
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