They sleep until 4:00 in the afternoon. They stay up until 6 am. They start talking to us at midnight, with the expectation that we will stay awake and listen. Why?
There are many theories as to why this is so, but I’m not so sure it needs to be explained. The fact is, it’s real. And it seems to come on in a sudden manner, right around the age of 13-14.
Our society’s clock is built around the needs of an agricultural society, one that requires children to get up early and work during the first third of the day, let’s say 8am to 4 pm. Those hours work well for adults and for very young children, but not so well for teens. They are often fighting intense fatigue until their biological clocks wake up, sometime around 1-2 pm.
The teen weekend tends to reinforce the nocturnal schedule, out late with friends and sleeping in during the day. In some families, teens are expected to attend events, religious services or family meals on weekends, help out with chores and do homework. The result is that most teenagers are severely sleep deprived, fighting their natural inclination to sleep in the early morning hours and stay awake late at night.
Parents, your teens are not intentionally disobeying you. Their biorhythms are telling them to stay awake at night and sleep all day. They are simply following the directions of their internal clock.
What can we do to help?
Parents can probably not change the clock of the entire industrialized world, but we can try. We can lobby for later start times for high schools. We can help our teens to prioritize sleep. We can model healthy lifestyle by reducing stress and eating well, promoting balance, common sense and joy.
And please, just let them sleep when they can.