Teen Pillow Talk

January 12, 2014, Parenting Success Network

It’s 8:30 pm and our house is winding down. My 4th grader and my 1st grader are getting tucked in and appear ready for bed: slow-paced, eyes half-closed, not resisting bedtime, etc. My 7th grader, on the other hand, wants to have a full-on, lively conversation with me at about a mile a minute. She is wide awake (even if I am not) and nowhere near sleepy. Even when I can manage to coax her into the bed and she tries earnestly to go to sleep, she complains in frustration that she “can’t fall asleep”. Some nights are worse than others especially because she understands the value of sleep to her future functioning. In fact, she gets anxious when she can’t seem to fall asleep and this makes the situation worse.

Studies show that tweens and teens need 8 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep per day. Studies also show that adolescent sleep patterns are very different from child and adult sleep patterns because of the changes that occur during puberty. Biologically, teens are programmed to stay up later (as late as 11 pm) and sleep later. Unfortunately, few public middle and high school start times are designed to accommodate this shift in sleep patterns for adolescents.

So how can we help our teens adjust to this shift in sleep patterns given this set of circumstances? The article titled Teen Sleep: Why is Your Teen So Tired?, brought to you by the staff at the Mayo Clinic will expand your understanding of teen sleep as well as offer tips for helping your teen get the zzz’s necessary to function optimally the next day. Check out the article and remember to let your teen know that it is “normal” to have difficulty falling asleep at night because of the changes their body is going through. In fact, a nice way to help your teen wind down might be a 15-minute parent-child “pillow talk” or “check-in” about their day or the day ahead. My daughter likes this because it is a special time for her and me to reconnect after a busy day. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll sweeten her dreams a bit when she does finally fall asleep.