Why your teen won’t get out of bed on time – a guest post from Tuck Sleep

April 9, 2018

If you’ve ever had to drag your teen out of bed to get ready for school in the morning, you’re not alone. Scientific research has begun to support what parents have suspected for years—the teen body runs on a different schedule than the rest of the world. Changes in the adolescents’ bodies are coupled with school schedules, extracurricular activities, and budding social lives. This recipe makes it difficult for many teens to get the full eight to ten hours of sleep they need.

A fundamental shift in the sleep-wake cycle takes place as children transition into adolescence. In pre-adolescence, children start to feel sleepy between eight and nine o’clock at night. In teens, a shift, called sleep phase delay, takes place that makes them feel tired a full two hours later. While it may look like your teen has insomnia, the truth is he doesn’t start to feel tired until ten or eleven o’clock.

For years, schools have developed class schedules under the assumption that the teen body functions like an adult’s. Classes often begin before 8:30 in the morning. Many teens start their day well before the sun is up. With sleep phase delay, that puts them at risk for chronic sleep deprivation.

As new evidence has emerged about the sleep needs of teens, some schools have tried experimenting with later start times. Not only have they observed an improvement in academic performance but also happier, kinder students with a decrease in behavioral problems. It turns out that working with teen biology rather than against it helps teens perform at their best.

While a change in school start times can undoubtedly help, learning about and committing to healthier sleep is an important step for teens to get the rest they need. During adolescence, teens may have to learn to balance school, family obligations, part-time employment, and a social life. The learning process needs to include understanding the role that sleep plays in a healthy lifestyle.

Teens, and parents too, can learn to develop good sleep habits that lead to a full night’s sleep. It starts by making sure the bedroom has the right sleep conditions. The mattress should be firm or well-supported by a foundation or box spring. A dark, cool, quiet bedroom offers the best sleep atmosphere. In some cases, you might need to invest in blackout curtains to keep light and noise down to a minimum.

Consistency also helps regulate a teen’s changing sleep-wake cycle. A regular bedtime that’s kept on weekends as well as weekdays helps the body know when to release sleep hormones. If your teen has trouble falling asleep at night, a bedtime routine might be what he needs to help his mind and body prepare for sleep. Routines help trigger the release of sleep hormones and give your teen time to release stress after a long day.

It’s also important to eliminate factors that could be keeping your teen awake. For teens, two factors are screen time and stimulants. Screen time, including video games, can suppress the release of sleep hormones. The bright blue light emitted by televisions, smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices could be keeping your child from feeling sleepy. Encourage your teen to shut off the screens at least an hour before bed.

Stimulants like caffeine block sleep hormones for hours, making it tough to settle down at night. Consumption should stop at least four hours before bed to give your teen the best chance at a good night’s rest.


Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and sleep organizations across the web.

How a slice of bread changed my life

November 14, 2011

I have never been a morning person.  I hate getting up in the morning.  I particularly hate getting woken up before I’m ready to wake up.  So for me, one of the hardest things about being a parent and that I’ve never got used to, is getting woken up every morning. Every morning.  7 days a week.  At the weekend, on holiday, on your birthday, when you’re sick, every day.  It’s utterly relentless.

I have tried various tactics to make my son’s waking time later; blackout linings, making his tea time later, bedtime snacks, warmer bed clothes, fewer bed clothes, toys laid out in different ways to busy him for longer before he comes into our room, various different central heating timer settings, fairy lights on a timer switch that indicate ‘OK to get up’, then ‘OK to come into Mum & Dad’s room’……Nothing has really worked.

As soon as he was old enough we started leaving milk out for him to drink when he woke up.  After all, I’m always thirsty when I wake up.  But this was never one of my delay tactics, just something I thought he should have.

A few weeks ago, we added to this a slice of bread.

The first morning, I awoke in a sort of panic.  Where is he?  Is he OK?  Apparently he had got up, eaten his bread, then gone back to bed and dozed back off to sleep.

Every morning since then he has either done the same, or if he has not gone back to bed he has played happily in his room until we get up.  Sometimes for an hour or more.  (and this is a child who never plays on his own)

This is too good to be true. Could something so simple as a slice of bread really have ended the era of the early morning wake up which I was expecting to continue for several more years?

I feel so much more rested, less grumpy and able to face the world.  Why did it take me so long to think of something so basic?