How to help teenagers get enough sleep

Judesaleh asks: Is it ok for my 12-year-old daughter to sleep over at my mum’s just because she doesn’t want anyone to tell her when to sleep and she likes to stay up sooo late? I can’t have any privacy when she is around. Knowing that my mum lives alone, and this is only during the summer vacation, what can I do to make her sleep earlier?

Hi Judesaleh –

Thanks for writing me.  I’m a bit confused by your question, though.  It sounds like you’re asking if it’s okay for your 12-year-old to sleep at your mother’s home (If it’s a safe place and they both enjoy it, then I’d say absolutely!  Grandparents are one of my favorite things, and I think there’s nothing better for a kid than to spend time getting to know them).  But it also sounds like you’re asking how to get your 12-year-old to go to bed earlier when she’s staying with you.


That’s a very common and difficult problem.  When children are young, most of them are “early folk,” going to bed early and then waking up well before their parents are ready to get out of bed, eager to greet the new day.  But when kids hit the beginnings of adolescence, they suddenly want to shift their schedules, and stay up (and sleep in) really late.  There are some external reasons for this – it’s fun to hang out or talk with friends into the wee hours of the morning, and it’s a time when they can have a break from their parents – as well as the big internal reason for it: they weren’t able to stay up late before, but now they CAN!

During the school break, my general sense is to let her manage her own hours.  The important part, though, is that you need to start shifting her hours back, to help her prepare, well before school begins.  I’d suggest starting a regimen at least two weeks before.

For example, if she’s staying up to 1:00 a.m. regularly now, and she’ll need to be getting up at 6:00 on school days, I would suggest that, two weeks before school starts, you make her start going to bed at midnight and getting up at 8.  Then a week later, pull it back to bed at 11 and up at 7.  This way she’ll be more able to adjust to the (yaawwwwwwn) 6 a.m. rising on the first day of school.

Now one other element should be added to this: lots of times, teenagers go through a growth spurt, where they suddenly need more than eight hours of sleep a night.  Maybe even ten or twelve.  When this happens to your daughter, it’s even more important that she adjusts her sleeping schedule to the time she has to get up, and not to how late she might like to stay out.  Naps are okay, and she can get extra sleep on the weekends, but it’s absolutely vital that she gets the sleep her body’s demanding at this time.  Bodies are very smart, and they don’t lie about things like this!


But, back to your original question, if your mum’s happy and she’s happy, then I think the very best thing for all three of you is for your daughter to spend some great quality time with a woman who can give her wisdom and understanding and a sense of her own history, better than anyone else on earth!  Go Granny Go!


Happy Sleeping!




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