Bedtime? For my teenager? Ok. Ok. Maybe you're not doing read alouds and tucking in the covers anymore, but it's still important to think about rituals for rest and how they might align to your child's changing developmental needs.
And they are changing. Not only do teens need more sleep now than they may have needed in the second plane, their daily rhythm often shifts. So, while teens need between 8.5 and 10 hours of sleep per night, they may actually be incapable of falling asleep until after 11PM, a mix that seems to conspire against healthy sleep patterns for them. You might see Montessori schools shifting their start times in the morning for youth in the Third Plane, to allow for those students to arrive later in the morning and, hopefully, get the sleep they need.
At home, you might not be able to keep the same hours that your teen does, but you can still help them to maintain healthier sleep patterns.
1. Insist to an early shut-down time for digital screens, including telephones and laptops, even if it means adjusting evening responsibilities to allow tasks that require digital engagement to be finished first. Shut down the screens at least an hour before your teen intends to sleep.
2. Your teen might actually enjoy an afternoon nap, especially if their school day must start earlier than their natural rhythms do. Encourage it- just be sure it's not too close to the time they're hoping to go to sleep.
3. Support them in keeping their bedrooms tidy and clean, creating a peaceful oasis from the hectic lives teens often lead. Look for light-blocking curtains and make sure the room is dark when your teen is trying to sleep.
4. Encourage regular exercise, earlier in the afternoon or first thing in the morning.
5. Watch your teen's diet, especially in their consumption of caffeine and sugar. Consuming sugary treats or drinks or caffeine (including chocolate!) later in the day can delay an already difficult bedtime routine.
6. Move morning demands to the night before. Your teen can shower at night, prepare their backpack, pack their lunch and even choose their clothing before they go to bed, allowing a little later wake-up time in the morning. Routinize these as a part of their regular bedtime wind-down for the best transition to sleep.
7. Discourage binging on sleep on the weekends in exchange for establishing regular sleep routines seven days a week. You can't really "catch up" on the sleep you need by sleeping more on the weekends only. Instead, try to adjust the demands and schedules of the other days of the week to support your teen getting the sleep they need.
Most of our schedules conflict with teen's natural nocturnal patterns. And we know that, when teens are sleep deprived, they have more trouble with attention, more anxiety, and more social stress. Support your teen as they transition to total independence for their sleep patterns by talking with them about how much sleep they need and encouraging them to identify their own solutions within healthy parameters. This is not a time to enforce bedtimes as much as it's an opportunity to support your teen in protecting their own healthful sleep habits, promotion routines for self-care that, hopefully, will follow them into adulthood.