Monday, August 22, 2011

Tips for sleepy teens

Some parents resort to screaming. Others bang on doors or yank off covers. When it is time to wake up teens for school, things can get ugly.

The root causes of this battle are not mysterious. Teen bodies need about nine hours of sleep and are biologically primed to fall asleep around 11 p.m. But school schedules require many to get up before dawn.

The result: Typical teens are chronically sleep-deprived, Emsellem says. Many are in their deepest phase of sleep just about the time parents start nagging them to wake up, she says.

"This is not just obstinate behaviour," she says. "This is biology."

Now is the perfect time to talk with your teen about solutions. "Tell them that you don't want to go through this routine again this year," Emsellem says. Here are some things to try:

- Shift responsibility. Emsellem suggests asking your teen: "How can I help you take responsibility for this?" They need to learn to wake up without you sooner or later. If they still need help, limit it: For example, Emsellem says a parent might offer to check once to see if the teen is awake. "If you walk in their room four times every morning, they know you will keep doing that."

- Educate them. Ask them to keep a log of their sleep patterns for a couple of weeks. Just seeing how little sleep they get may help them make changes, such as finishing homework and getting to bed earlier.

- Watch out for weekends. Typical teens compound their problems by staying up and getting up much later on weekends, pushing their body clocks off school-week schedules. Kohler tells teens to get up "no more than an hour or two later" than on weekdays. Emsellem says 8 a.m. may seem brutal, but "anything after 10 a.m. is out of bounds."

- Enlighten them. Tell teens that light from computer and TV screens just before bedtime will keep them awake. Light in the morning will help them wake up. Kohler suggests some teens get a light therapy box that simulates sunlight and comes on with their alarm.

When those measures fail? Emsellem says it may help to say you won't give them a ride or write an excuse if they wake up late.

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