Getting your teenager to wake up in the morning can be a constant struggle in some households. It’s frustrating, after you’ve gone into their bedroom for the 6th time, yanked the blankets off their bed, hollered, threatened, and pleaded, and yet their still happily off in dreamland while the clock keeps ticking away. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that they’re late for school and the life just keeps passing them by early in the morning. They’re happy to continually doze off while you pull your hair out.
Experts say that teenagers actually require about as much sleep as they did when they were babies, but life’s responsibilities and desires prevents them from getting ample sleep. Some kids would do better if they went to bed around 8:00 at night, but often they are still working on homework or unwinding in front of the television. So what is a parent to do?
Unfortunately, some kids will always struggle. We all have our own individual internal clocks that we function best around, but the rest of the world likes to function at its own time. As adults, we have a few more options regarding our schedules, night owl turn to third shift work, early birds are hopping out the door for their 7:00 am meeting with a smile on their face, and the rest of us fall somewhere in between.
Struggling to get out of bed is a trait that some teenagers will hold onto for the rest of their lives, and they will schedule their college classes late and attempt to land jobs that don’t start early, because their internal clock ticks at a later time frame than most. However, despite their internal clocks, school starts at 7:45 am sharp and tardiness is frowned upon.
The first place to start is on the opposite end of getting up, which is going to sleep. Most likely your internally charged night owl isn’t hitting the sheets until after 11:00, despite constant nagging from you that they need to get up in the morning. Setting aside homework time right after school or before dinner and insisting that it’s complete before anything else happens is a good place to start. Many teens have between 2 and 3 hours of homework each night. Starting it at 7:00 is setting them up for a late night.
With the homework out of the way, they will still have a couple of hours to unwind their charged up clock, however, playing sports after 8:00pm, such as a pick-up game of basket ball, releases endorphins and makes it harder to sleep. Physical exertion should be restricted to before the 8:00 hour. It seems like a lot of restrictions, however, once a good routine starts it’s easier to keep it going.
So you worked all week to get them to be calmer and ready for bed earlier and by Thursday night it seems that they’re in bed about 45 minutes earlier, and things are looking up. And then the weekend hits. A schedule that took effort to attain can completely be blown apart over the weekend. Just because there’s no school doesn’t mean that staying up into the wee hours of the night is beneficial, and altering the schedule by more than one or two hours can really hamper the weekly progress. There may be a lot of balking at this, but when they can get themselves up in the morning, then they can have more say about their weekend schedule.
Kids who are completely unenthused about school are harder to get up in the morning. Getting your teenager to wake up in the morning when they are uninterested in their day is like getting your teeth pulled without Novocain. Who wants to jump out of bed, especially when it’s cold and dark outside, to get ready for a day they’d rather not be having? Understandable, but not very responsible.
As much empathy as some of us may have regarding the need for sleep, learning to get up on time is an important part of growing into an adult. Bosses aren’t very friendly about an employee who is perpetually late for work because they oversleep. Unfortunately, it may come down to a matter of discipline and consequences for not getting up on time, including early bed times.
Set an annoying alarm clock across the room, forcing them to get out bed to turn it off. Anyone can get used to an alarm after about two weeks, so getting an alarm clock that allows the parent to change the sound of an alarm is a good idea. Encourage them to at least splash cold water on their face as soon as they turn off the alarm as a little chill can really help wake up a sleepy teen (or adult) even if it mean leaving a basin of cold water in their room. In the winter months, turn back the thermostat a bit at night, so that their bedroom has a mild chill to it, or close off one of their heating vents. You don’t want to make it so chilly that they are likely to climb back under the covers, but just enough to help their body wake up in the morning.
Finally, attaching rewards and consequences to the early morning rise is probably a must for some super sleepy teens who are just not interested in adjusting themselves. They want to go to a party Friday night? That’s fine as long as you don’t have to drag them out of bed. Be reasonable in the beginning and give them one reminder wake up such as, “If you want to go to the party Friday night then you need to be out of this bed. If I have to remind you again, then no party.” A little positive and negative reward and consequence game can often get a teenager wiping the sleepy tears from their eyes and struggling their way to the bathroom.
Once you succeed in getting your teenager to wake up in the morning without constant nagging, prompting, threatening, and dragging, the two of you will find that mornings are much easier on both of you.