My goal is to keep bed-times in single digits, but is that realistic?
For a 12 and 14 year old am I being too restrictive?
I regularly re-negotiate the boundaries on bed-times, and I thought I’d cracked it at the beginning of the year when I proclaimed that the boys would go to bed at the same time as the school year they’re in!
This seemed so simple and worked beautifully for 14 year old Biscuit who’s in year 9, but is less achievable for 12 year old Berry in year 7!
Good Sleep Habits
The key to drama free bed-times lies in establishing good habits early on, and anticipating the potential challenges to come:
The earlier parents can start helping their children with good sleep habits, the easier it will be to sustain them through the teen years.
Dr Mary Carskadon (Director of Sleep Research)
So before you address the issue of bed-times with your emerging teen know the facts, and reflect on what you want and why!
I Just want Some Peace & Quiet!
There are times that I want the kids to go to bed for my sake not theirs!
I just want a bit of peace and quiet to watch something inappropriate on TV, (Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead etc) all by myself!
In this instance I’m setting a bed time to suit me, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Except that it might be a bit too early for them!
But knowing that the bed-time I set is about creating an adult space, rather than their need for sleep, means I can bring something alternative to the discussion. If my aim is not sleep, I can ask them to go to their rooms to read, listen to music or watch TV in another area.
This gives me the adult space I need, whilst allowing them a bit more time to wind-down before bed.
So How Much Sleep Does A Teenager Need?
The optimum amount of sleep teens need is 9-10 hours per night!
That’s more than the amount an adult or child needs, so it’s no wonder they may not be getting enough; they need more than everyone else in the family!
Many teens aren’t getting enough sleep, and that might be because we assume that 8 hours is enough, but hormone & attitude changes and social/sporting commitments are often the number one offenders!
I know that my boys schedule is packed out with soccer training, after school clubs and homework, so getting to bed at the ideal time can be a challenge. Recently they were both training for cross country before school; we were leaving the house before 6.45am!
Did they want to go to bed earlier to compensate? No way!
Does Less Sleep Really Make A Difference?
- Poor school grades
- Reduced concentration
- Pimples and poor skin
- Grumpy and aggressive outbursts
- Over eating sugary and fatty foods
- Increased susceptibility to illness
Although I don’t get too hung up on a short period of sleep deprivation (as in the cross-country training), I am focused on helping them become the best that they can be, and in the long term that means getting enough sleep.
Been Here Before; establishing sleep routines
Sleeping: when they were babies that was the only word that mattered!
Day time sleeps, sleeping through the night, soothers and controlled crying were some of the torments of establishing that nebulous sleep routine.
During the toddler years it all started to fall into place and I used routines like bath-time and bedtime stories to cue my children into sleep routines.
Now, at 12 and 14, I don’t feel as if I do much in the way of a sleep routine! But you’d be surprised!
When you start to actually think about what you do to promote healthy sleeping habits it’s amazing what you’re not giving yourself credit for!
Here’s a list of what I do most nights:
- I get dinner on the table at least an hour before bedtime
- I get them to turn off their devices about an hour before bed
- I negotiate a time for bed
- I police and enforce that time
- I encourage them to shower each night (not always successfully)
- I build-in 10 minutes reading time in bed
- I say goodnight (sometimes I’m even allowed to put them to bed)
- I check that devices are not in their rooms
- I check-in on them before I go to bed
Lets Talk Sleep Hygiene
Promoting sleep as a priority in your house is a key thing to establishing ‘sleep hygiene’.
I love this buzz word, it makes me feel very important: ‘Sorry I can’t take your call right now as I’m attending to some sleep hygiene issues!’
What it refers to is actually very simple, common sense, healthy habits that promote sleep:
How awesome that we can make sleep more hygienic!
So clean sleep is what teens need; a series of patterns that help them wind-down to bed-time. Simple bed-time routines send the message that sleep is a precious resource that your family values.
- What are your teens bed-time routines?
- Do you need to reflect on your own sleep hygiene before addressing your teens?
- How do you promote healthy bed-time routines in your family?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these issues.
Don’t miss next weeks post where I’ll explore how you can create a sleep haven for you and your teen.