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Don’t wake your sleeping teenager to study

December 1, 2016


So many parents get stressed out because their teenager is still in bed half way through the day.  How can they study when they’re sleeping?  How can they pass their exams if they don’t get up and work?  Don’t despair, all is not what it seems when it comes to teenagers and their sleep.  


Teenagers need much more sleep than adults.  They are growing and developing, there are lots of changes going on in their body and their minds.  They need on average around 9.5 hours sleep a night.  But remember that’s an average so don’t be concerned if your teenager needs more.


Telling them to go to bed earlier is not necessarily the answer.  It may seem strange but a teenager’s body and mind is programmed is to stay up late and sleep in late.  They have an in-built sleep phase delay which makes them naturally want to sleep later and get up later. You may have heard about some new schools starting the school day later in response to scientific evidence has shown teenagers work better if they start later. 


Sleep is really good for them.  Most teenagers are sleep deprived but the benefits of sleep are huge.  It helps them to develop and grow. It helps them to digest what they have learnt; they can even be consolidating what they have learnt in their sleep.  It helps with memory, concentration and their ability to focus.  Sleep also boosts their immune system, making them less susceptible to coughs and colds and other illnesses which would prevent them from studying.  Sleep also helps them deal with stress and enables them to keep things in perspective. Teenagers need more sleep rather than less during exams, brain activity uses lots of energy!


However much it may sound like a good idea for teenagers to stick to a regular routine so that they go to bed and get up the same time 7 days a week, this is so unpalatable for a teenager that it just isn’t going to work. It may prevent the Monday morning “ social jet lag” but it won’t allow your teenager to catch up on the sleep they need and doesn’t fit in with their natural body clock.


Your teenager is unlikely to have had enough sleep during the week, having had to get up early for school/college, so they need to catch up at the weekends.  As they are also likely to want to go out with their friends on the weekend, it makes sense that we let them, even encourage them, to sleep in on the weekends.


Don’t see sleeping in as a sign that your teenager is lazy.  They’re not being lazy, it’s just they need their sleep.  If anything encourage them to get as much sleep as possible.  Once they are up and fully refreshed they can work in the afternoon and early evening, at times when they are far more likely to be productive.


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© Amanda Dewinter 2020