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What to Do About a Teenager's Sleeping Problems

Updated on September 4, 2009

I began noticing how difficult it was to arouse my teenaged son around his 15th birthday. Waking up and going to school were not just an annoying morning problem, but a major ordeal that was causing stress on all the relationships throughout our family.

I often received unsolicited advice from friends and colleagues (most of whom did not have teenaged children) . All of these ideas where easy fixes. I was told "poor water on him" or "take away all his privileges". I wished our problem was that easy to solve.

School Counselors, Teachers, and Family members advised me to allow my child to miss school or other activities and allow him to "pay the price" for his actions. Our trial of these ideas resulted in increased school absences and a child that was failing school. He was missing practices and games, and no longer was active and healthy. Our problems had escalated to problems in the classroom, feelings of worthlessness, and a medical diagnosis of major depression.

I was frustrated. My teenager was frustrated. We needed a solution.

I contacted our medical doctor, who referred us to a wonderful adolescent couselor. Between our doctor and the counselor, we were able to confirm that there were no problems such as substance abuse or diabetes. With our counselor's help, we found some solutions that worked for us and made our morning wake-ups much easier.

What is causing my teen to sleep in?

Teenagers have different sleep patterns than other age groups. A naturally occurring hormone called Melatonin, regulates the human sleep cycle. When melatonin is being circulated throughout the body, we feel more awake and alert. In adolescents, because of their hormonal changes, melatonin takes a longer time to activate than it does at other times throughout life. This causes the teenager to feel sleepy during the morning and more awake in the evenings and at night. This results in a teenager who wants to sleep all day and be up all night.  Thankfully, for the sanity of all parents of adolescents, a condition that is usually not permanent!

what can I do about the problem of my adolescent sleeping in?

Here are some ideas that helped us.

Create a bright and quiet atmosphere at night.

Instead of allowing your child to chat on the phone with friends or watch TV at night, encourage them to read a book or magazine if falling asleep is problematic. Writing a story, drawing pictures, or keeping a journal is helpful if they do not like to read. Make sure your child has good lighting in his room to read or write by, as melatonin is stimulated by darkness and is suppressed by light.

Stay away from the TV and the computer after late hours. There are studies showing that melatonin may also be surpressed by "blue light" or the light given off by Television and computer screens.

Tip: If your child has a "black light" or neon light decoration in his/her room, would be wise to remove it if he's having sleep pattern issues.

Diet and Excercise

Changing your teen's diet and getting them to exercise can be a challenge for a parent of a not so active teenager. Most teens love to snack on junk food and sip carbonated sodas. Although you cannot control everything your teenager eats, you can control the foods that you buy at the grocery store and have around the home. Replacing Fruits and healthier snacks with junk foods is easy once you begin doing it. The health benefits are numerous not only to your hard-to-wake teenager, but for the entire family. Replace Sodas with Milk and juices.

Cut back on "high energy" foods with a lot of caffeine or sugar content. These are quick fixes that make you feel alert immediately, but are short acting. After the initial energy surge, the longer lasting affects are increased fatigue.

Find an activity your teen will enjoy. If he loves sports, be encouraging and support his sporting activities. If he is not athletic, family trips to the local bowling alley, hiking, or obtaining a local gym membership may be some great ideas to help your teen become more active.

Change your teenagers surroundings

It may sound strange, but a darker colored room actually may create an easier-to-wake-up in atmosphere. Again, this is due to the stimulation of melatonin during darkness. I didn't like the idea of changing my son's room to a dark color. It seemed depressing to me, and since he'd been depressed in the past, I was worried about painting his room. We actually picked a dark purple color called eggplant that was very attractive. It seemed to help more than I thought it would. The morning struggles and fights decreased noticeably.

Painting in dark colors doesn't appeal to everyone. I prefer bright colors. They make me feel cheery and happy. However, If you know anything about teen fashion, Black is often a teen's favorite color. Visit any mall in the United States and it will be filled with teens dressed in black and frequenting stores like "Hot Topic" where entering feels as if you are about to be attacked by vampires or zombies. Hard to believe there is actually a positive reason for those dreary looking clothes on all those "Gothic" teenagers, huh?

It is not necessary to turn a child's room into Dracula's castle, but if it helps MY child succeed in life, then I am willing to decorate my entire home as if Halloween is celebrated 365 days a year!

Find a routine

Once you finally get your teenager into a much better sleeping pattern, make sure it continues as routine. Allowing all-night stay awake slumber parties on the weekends could cause your child's internal sleep clock to be altered. The 'National Sleep Foundation' recommends 8 to 9.5 hours of sleep every night for adolescents. A break in this pattern could cause unwanted family feuds on Monday morning.

And finally, if your teenager is depressed, using drugs/alcohol, or having anger problems, please see your physician and have your child further evaluated. There are many medical conditions that can cause sleep disorders. Some of which are life-threatening if left untreated.



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    • sheristeele profile image

      sheristeele 7 years ago from Siler City, NC

      THanks Info Help. Things are actually looking better in the raising for school problems! Once I understood the problems of teens better, we were able to work through some of these problems.

    • Info Help profile image

      Info Help 8 years ago from Chicago

      Hello Sheristeele!

      First of all, let me say "Welcome to Hubpages!" I really enjoyed this article. I have a 16 year old daughter that will literally sleep until the cows come home if I let her. I don't have many problems getting her up on days for school, but on the weekends she will sleep in past noon if I let her. I am a fan :)

    • sheristeele profile image

      sheristeele 8 years ago from Siler City, NC

      Thank you! I enjoyed your writings on sleep as well.

    • profile image

      hubpageswriter 8 years ago

      Very well written article.. I especially agree with the painting of colors. I prefer cool colors in order to lullaby me to sleep.. :) thanks for sharing..

    • sheristeele profile image

      sheristeele 8 years ago from Siler City, NC

      THANKS so much Kari and Aqua. It is amazing how many childless people have advice for parents.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for the great information and suggestions! This hub should help parents of teenagers all over the world. It is so frustrating to try to wake them...and even more when the teenagerless people make helpful suggestions. They mean well, but unless you have experienced this, you cannot understand how hard it is on parent and child. Wonderful hub! :D

    • Aqua profile image

      Aqua 8 years ago from California

      So this explains "teenage sleep syndrome"! The info about the melatonin is very interesting.