Sunday, August 1, 2021
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Late to Bed, Early to Rise

Rach, the “older teen”

Sleeping is a big issue for me. In high school, I was exhausted in the spring after all the work I had been doing with the school musical. And in the fall, watching TV and doing homework weren’t exactly the most tiring activities, so I stayed up later and did more nothing.

My parents never really hassled me about it. If I was still watching TV at 11 or 12 then they would tell me that I should get some sleep soon. Or, if I was in bed before dinner, they just let me sleep. I guess all the sleep I got sort of balanced out.

I’ve been working on a more normal sleep schedule, now. I go to bed more or less consistently on weeknights, and I take naps between classes if I feel like I need it. I’ve noticed: as teens get older they sort of realize how much sleep their bodies need. So, sleep becomes something much more important than it was as a younger teen.

I’m wondering how you deal with sleep schedules at your house? I haven’t had a “bedtime” in years… is that still a thing now that you have teens?

Brad, the “dad”

It’s amazing how “bedtime” and “maturity” have become inextricably entwined here in my little kingdom. Looking back, I realize this is where we first starting losing control – or, more accurately, the illusion of control: when we stopped enforcing reasonable bedtimes. But you’re right, Rach: as the kids get older, parents feel oddly guilty about tucking them in, and it’s the first place where even ‘easy’ kids take a stand, no matter how impractical…

Meanwhile, this particular conflict made for middle-school early-morning hours that were pure, unadulterated hell. Getting the girls up and running was darn near impossible. There were some classic days where they stumped off to school carrying most of their clothes rather than wearing them because of they just…could…not…WAKE UP. And for some reason, “I told you so” didn’t have much effect on changing their sleepy-times.

Our solution? We came to accept, and even encourage, the Miracle of The Nap. Yes, there’s a certain maturity-edge there, too: “Don’t treat me like a baby!” But I was more than happy to lead by example. If I had to stay up late or pull an all-nighter to work on a project (a feat that, trust me, gets harder and harder as the decades pile up), I would make a point of proudly catching a few winks during my natural creative/energy downtime (for me? About 4:00 p.m.). And if one of the girls pulled the same late-night antics, it was easier to enforce a late-afternoon lie-down than cut the power to their bedrooms and strap them to the mattress, just to get them asleep by 11:00.

And it still works. They may not get eight hours in a row, but by and large, they do get closer to eight hours of sleep out of every 24…and in the process, they’ve become more flexible in their planning and more aware of when they really need rest-time. And there are generally fewer arguments about lights-out and wake-ups.

Consider it. The Miracle of the Nap. It’s not just a good idea…it’s a law of nature.

Mary, the “mom”

Our teens have a bedtime on school nights, but it’s not a time that we mandated, it’s one they agreed to. Unfortunately, it’s also not a time by which they are actually in bed very often. So, rather than serving as “bedtime”, it serves as the time at which mom and/or dad start nagging that they should be in bed.

I know they’re tired. In just the last week, each of them has made a comment about having a light homework night and planning to get to bed early. Somehow, that never happens.

As a “night owl”, I am a terrible example. I blame it on bio-rhythms. I guess that’s just an excuse and if I really wanted to change, I could. The fact is that I don’t really know whether I could change or not, because I’ve never tried. I like staying up late. (Really bad example.)

Unfortunately, also like their mother, our teens never nap. With the exception of a few times when I’ve been really sick, I haven’t had a nap since I was two, even when the kids were babies and I’d be up half the night. I just can’t nap.

So, while I’d like to believe that, like Rach, my kids will start listening to their bodies as they mature and regulate their sleep schedule, I suspect that instead, they will follow they’re mother’s bad example. But hey, I get a lot done in a day, how bad can it be?

Lauren, the “younger teen”

Normally I get to bed between 10:00 and 10:30. I don’t have a real bedtime per se, but at 10:30 my parents will start to push me to get to bed. I always feel tired. It’s a rare occasion when I don’t feel ready to fall asleep right then and there. Unfortunately, my busy schedule doesn’t allow for naps or earlier bedtime. The not getting home from dance until 9:30 and still having to eat and shower makes it hard.

Napping sounds like a great solution, but I don’t think too many teen schedules allow it. I wish sometimes I had time to nap, but I don’t. I also don’t think I’ve napped since I was 2. I was never big on napping as a little kid and now since I want to, I don’t have the time to.

Teens seem to stay up later than they should give they have to get up at those ungodly school times. Mornings are hell for me. My alarm goes off, I turn it off, roll back over, go to sleep, my mom comes and wakes me up. Then later on my mom calls the time, I reply “oh, crap” because I’m not ready, My make-up has to be finished before I go out, I miss the bus every other day, so I go to my neighbor’s house because they get on after me. They don’t even look up when I come anymore, and, knock on wood, I’ve never missed it at their house.

So maybe as teens, we need more sleep than as kids, but of course, end up getting less… a lot less!

David Scott is the head writer at TRI PR. He better part of his college life as a journalist for the college magazine. He still writes and he loves it.