With the exams finally behind us and the holidays stretching ahead it has struck me that one thing teenagers can do very well is sleep.
In our house there is a definite teen sleep pattern evolving that eschews that of the rest of the house and means not only are our body clocks not in tune but also we are out of sync on so many other levels as a result.
If he is not working to pay for his multiple upcoming summer holidays, our eldest will go out as we go to bed, arrive home as my husband goes to work, go to sleep as I get up and his breakfast is our lunch and so on and so forth. As for our youngest, well she is going through a massive growth spurt at the moment and is permanently tired so needs no encouragement to sleep some more.
I am certainly not a morning person and relish the holidays and the chance for some extra shut eye, but my teenagers make sleeping look like an Olympic sport when not at school and I confess that on a couple of occasions I have resorted to the habit namely reserved for new mums of creeping in to their rooms and checking for a pulse for fear they have slipped in to a sleep induced coma!
Of course this whole scenario is ironic as I am sure like many other parents of teenagers will attest, the term time is a constant battle to get them to go to bed and get enough sleep, so if I argue with them now about cutting their sleep short and getting up earlier, they simply raise their eyebrows and challenge my logic.
Research from the National Sleep Foundation shows that teenagers between the ages of 14-18 need around 9 hours sleep a night, not only for their general well being but also to function at their best.
As adults, we are all too aware of the benefits of sleep. It makes us more alert and we have more energy, we think more clearly and make better decisions and that of course means we are all much happier and enjoy life more, but just as with everything else in life though, it isn’t just about the quantity of sleep but the quality.
Puberty, has a lot to answer for and as our children move through adolescence their internal body clock starts to alter which in turn affects their circadian rhythm making them more alert later in the day and moving back their time for feeling sleepy at night by about two hours, so it is a futile battle to get them to go to bed early as their body is simply not sleepy enough.
Combine this with busy schedules during the term time and the need to wake up early and go to school and invariably our teenagers are just not getting the amount, let alone the quality of sleep they need.
Cumulative sleep deprivation is bad for our health and as I know from personal experience with my menopausal insomnia, can result in mood swings, concentration issues and poor health and the same is true of teenagers. They need sleep to ensure their brain grows properly and to make sense of the world.
I have featured a guest post previously from Dr Martin Lee on good sleep hygiene habits for our teenagers and the importance of ensuring they disconnect from the digital world when they go to bed, but what else can we do as parents?
Well during term time a routine and set bed time is important, but it would seem that during the weekends and holidays whilst it may go against every grain in our body and drive us nuts, it is advised to let our teenagers sleep to replenish their fuel reserves, but this should not be at the expense of any parental control. If left to sleep indefinitely teenagers will experience a complete shift in their circadian rhythm which will mean that when it comes to the end of the holidays and returning to a normal routine they will struggle to adapt.
A good night’s rest is vital mental nourishment and the holidays are a time for resting and throwing the rule book and the alarm clock for that matter out of the window but there is a point at which it is necessary to call “time teenagers please!”
What is your summer holiday sleep routine? Are your youngsters busy catching up on their sleep?