By Bonnie Schiedel
It’s 11 o’clock on Saturday morning and your teenager is still burrowed beneath the blankets like a hibernating bear. Is he short on shuteye or simply avoiding his chores? Take this mini-quiz to see if your teen is getting the zzzs he needs.
How much sleep does an adolescent need each night?
A. seven or eight hours
B. eight or nine hours
C. nine or 10 hours
If you chose B, you’re bang on
Teenagers need between eight and nine hours of slumber a night, compared to seven or eight hours for adults. So sleeping in may actually be important to your child’s development, and not just because he’s growing like crazy. “After puberty, teens’ internal clocks shift, meaning they naturally fall asleep later and wake up later than a child or an adult,” says Carlyle Smith, a sleep re-searcher and psychology professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont. “But the real world means they have to get up early for school or activities, so they often aren’t getting enough sleep.”
To remedy that, encourage an earlier bedtime, and a 20-minute afternoon nap if necessary. And while it can mess up the schedule come Monday, snoozing late on weekends is ok. “Teenagers really need to catch up,” says Smith, “and sleeping in is one way to do it.” Ask your teen to limit mochaccinos and high-caffeine sodas, too. While Health Canada does not have specific caffeine guidelines for this age group, the daily limit for 10- to 12-year-olds is 85 milligrams (found in two cans of cola or one energy drink like Jolt and Red Bull).
Signs a teen is getting too few zzzs include:
A. acting cranky and falling asleep in her Corn Pops
B. plummeting grades
C. irrational outbursts and inordinately long showers
Trick question: it’s A and B!
Symptoms of too-little sleep include crankiness and doziness, of course, but also free-falling grades. That’s because waking up before you’re ready – missing a cycle of crucial rapid eye movement (rem) sleep – makes it harder to remember what you’ve learned the day before, says Smith. If your child’s grades are slipping, ask yourself if her schedule allows her to get at least eight hours of sleep most nights. She may need to scale back on some of her usual activities if it doesn’t. However, a sudden change in sleeping hours combined with different eating habits, feelings of hopelessness or avoiding people could point to a mental illness such as depression, so err on the safe side and talk to your teen and her doctor.
“He can talk on the phone between 10 and 10:30 p.m. and then its lights out. He listens to jazz or piano on low on his iPod to relax before he falls asleep.”
Lorraine Daly, Mom of Matt, Age 6
“If homework is not done by bedtime, too bad. We had some fights over this initially, but the kids have all learned to juggle their time better.”
Joyce B., Mom of daughter Carlye, age 17, and sons Luigi, age 14, and Cameron, age 12
“I make sure she’s able to sleep in until 10 or 11 a.m. one day on the weekend.”
Keltie S., Mom of Kathryn, age 14
“Our rule is no text messaging after 10 p.m. And we spend some quiet time together before bed, watching TV or talking.”
Cheryl G., Mom of Sarah, age 15