Feel like your teen is sleeping a lot on weekends and school breaks? It's easy to be concerned or worried they're "just a lazy teen," but the truth is that teens need a ton of sleep. Think about how early they get up in the mornings for school — it's become such an issue that California had to make a school start time law. Plus, do you remember your teenage years? While you might have been part of a tiny exception, you likely slept a lot, too.
Or, well, you slept late. Let's not forget that just because your teen is in bed until noon doesn't mean they are staying asleep. When you were growing up, if you wanted to chat with your friends until all hours of the night, you had two options: call on the phone and risk waking up your parents or use the computer in the "computer room," where you would also be at risk of waking up the adults in your house. Kids today have access to 24/7 private(-ish) communication options thanks to cell phones. Even if you heard your kiddo snoring in their bed at 11 p.m., that doesn't mean someone didn't call, text, or snap about something urgent at midnight that turned into a gabfest until the wee hours of the morning. So, instead of sleeping 13 hours (11 to noon), they more likely slept about nine hours (3 a.m. to noon).
And, according to child development researchers and sleep experts, nine hours isn't "too much" sleep at all. Want to know more about your teens' sleeping habits and sleeping needs? Read on.
How many hours of sleep do teens need?
According to the CDC, "kids" ages 12-18 need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle. That's down from 9-12 hours for their younger friends or siblings aged 9-12 years old.
Why is my teen sleeping more than "normal?"
First, let's remember that "normal" is relative. The CDC's guidelines may not take into account football season's two-a-days or the excitement of an upcoming debate team face-off. Every teen, every human, has a body that reacts differently to stimuli and will need more or less sleep to coincide with it. You might remember those few years in college where six hours was the optimal amount of sleep for you — more or less made you tired. You probably also remember when your kid learned to entertain themselves in the mornings, and you occasionally found yourself in bed for a solid 12 hours on the weekends.
To a certain extent, you should trust that, by now, you've taught your teen to recognize their body's needs. But here are some reasons you might find your teen sleeping more than 8-10 hours a night.
- They're catching up. The "per 24-hour cycle" might be the key term here. According to the Sleep Foundation, the average high school start time is 8 a.m. Even if your teen doesn’t partake in any morning practices or chore routines and has a quick commute, they're still most likely waking up around 7 a.m. during the week. To get those 8-10 hours of sleep, they'd need to go to bed between 9 and 11 p.m. What time did your teen go to bed last night? Probably not that early. If they're missing out on that much-needed sleep per 24-hour cycle during the school week, they're most likely making up for it on weekends and breaks.
- They're not sleeping well. Old mattress? Bedroom too hot? Phone under the pillow "pinging" all night? A nearby sibling, parent, or neighbor watching television a little too loud? All of these things could be significantly affecting your teen's sleep. If they're not sleeping well, they'll need to sleep more.
- Stress. What's going on in your teen's life? Are they fighting with their besties or significant other? Are they prepping for a big audition or tryout? Are they struggling with one of their classes? All of these things have an impact on your teen's energy and sleep quality.
- Depression/Anxiety. This could be situational or something that will become a more permanent part of your teen's life. If you've ruled out other sleep-disturbing options or see signs of depression or anxiety, it might be time to talk to their doctor.
How can I help my teen get enough rest?
So, you’ve come around to the importance of sleep and rest. But what can you do to ensure they get the right kind of rest and sleep for their needs? It’s easier than you think.
- Let them rest. You’ve seen the TikToks of parents busting down their teens’ doors or pulling early morning pranks as revenge from the toddler days. It’s hard not to fall for the desire to do the same. But as TikToking mama and licensed counselor Jax Anderson shares, it’s important to let your teens have as much time as they need to sleep.
- Create better sleep environments. Upgrade the mattress or toss on a mattress pad. Buy a window air conditioning unit or fan (or add extra blankets in the winter). Move the living room TV, so it’s not on the wall of your teen’s bedroom, and lower the volume or invest in a noise machine. Grab some blackout curtains while you’re at it.
- Remove their phone at night. This is going to be a fight. Sorry. Make sure your teen knows that you’re not going to use this time to snoop on them but simply to ensure they get uninterrupted sleep. Consider placing their phone charger just outside their bedroom door. It’s still close — if they urgently need it, they can grab it to send that message or look up that answer. But keeping the phone out of their room at night will ensure none of their friends are disrupting their sleep.
- Set a schedule/routine. Remember when your teen was an itty bitty baby, and everything was done on a rigid routine? At some point, that all flew out the window. Well, it might be time to bring that back. Sure, you’ll have to adjust from time to time to accommodate practices or vacations. Still, having a bit of a daily/nightly routine can help your teen get used to going to bed at a certain time, which can help you work on ensuring they’re getting enough sleep. Research suggests that consistent sleep throughout the week is much better for your body than sleeping in on the weekends. If, however, some seasons just make that impossible for your teen, allow the flexibility on weekend mornings to recoup that missed rest.
- Remind them to say NO to drugs, alcohol, and caffeine. Although Starbucks treats can be yummy, encourage your kids to avoid making a habit of it and steer clear of energy drinks. And not only are drugs and alcohol harmful and illegal for teens, but they can also throw off their sleep schedules, so it's important to emphasize the dangers of it.
Bottom line: Don’t be too hard on your sleeps-till-noon-every-day kid. Could they make a few lifestyle changes so that they don’t get to bed past midnight and therefore sleep late? Sure. But you were a teen too once... so you know how unlikely that is. The most vital thing here is that they’re getting enough sleep to feel healthy and happy.
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