Leave That Sleeping Teen Alone!!!!!

I posted part of this a couple of years ago, but it’s the weekend and I think it bears posting again because when I think of all those exhausted teens being dragged from their beds because some adult thinks that because he’s up, everyone should be up, I get really angry on behalf of the teens.

Mamacita says:   I remember being so tired it wasn’t humanly possible to turn OVER, let alone get up.  But I got up anyway, because I had responsibilities.  I sleep-walked across campus many times, to take a test.  I took tests with migraines so severe there were sparks shooting out of my head and I could barely read the questions.  I took tests that I’d pulled two or three all-nighters in a row to prepare for, and I really believed I was prepared!  I have fallen asleep with my head resting on my completed test.   I never once cut class on a test day, even though there were plenty of times when I wanted to.  (Are you listening, students dear?) (Because midterms aren’t all that far away, you know.)

I think a great way of telling whether a person is an adult or still a kid is watching him/her to see if he/she is, on a regular basis, dragging the ol’ carcass out of bed to do something because he/she signed up to do it, promised people he/she would be there to do it, paid money to do it or is being paid money to do it, and by golly he/she is just SUPPOSED to be there to do it.  No excuses. If it’s an obligation that requires a timeline with an established start and finish point, get up.

That being said:

Unless there is a legitimate reason for a teen to get up on a Saturday or any vacation day, the kid should be allowed to stay in bed all DAY if that’s what he/she wants.  Item:  the possible fact that Mom and/or Dad are up is NOT a legitimate reason to make others get up.

Teenagers really do need far more sleep than even a baby, and they seldom get it.  Many adults don’t understand this, and they insist that a teen GET UP on a Saturday morning or a vacation, because YOU’RE WASTING HALF THE DAY! COME ON, GET UP, THERE ARE CHORES TO BE DONE, ETC ETC ETC and these things can’t be done at nighttime, apparently. . . .  Plus, there’s the absolutely ridiculous early-morning start of high school, which most experts agree is detrimental to most teens’ body clock and yet school systems insist on it, mostly for the convenience of the bus drivers and families who rely on their older kids to babysit the younger kids after school.

Doesn’t anybody care about our sleepy teens?  An average teenager’s body requires ten to fourteen hours of sleep sometimes!  Why won’t some parents let the kid sleep?  Just, you know, leave the kid alone and let him SLEEP?  Wasting the day?  Some people are night owls, plain and simple, and sleeping when they’re the most tired is just logical.  Not everybody loves the early morning.  I don’t.  I hate it, in fact.  “Are you ever going to get out of that bed?  Do you intend to sleep your life away?  Jane, you’re wasting half of your Saturday!”  No, I wasn’t.  My Saturday was divided differently than certain other people, that’s all.  And at nine or ten p.m., when those people were curled up in bed, I was just beginning to be at my mental-alertness peak. I’m still that way.

Teens are wasting good daylight hours when they could be DOING something?  No, they’re not.  Teenagers desperately need that sleep, so leave them alone on their days off and let them sleep. It doesn’t do any good to insist that a kid go to bed earlier, either.  Most of the time, a kid just isn’t sleepy enough to go to bed earlier.  Mother Nature is a wily old thing and wired us all differently, sleep-needs-wise.

So who’s right and who’s wrong?  Nobody and everybody, of course.  But far too many adults can’t fathom a kid who wants to sleep so much.  Nay, a kid who MUST sleep so much.  I understand it completely.  I sympathize. I’m all for leaving the kid alone and letting him sleep.  He needs that sleep.  He needs hours and hours and hours of blissful uninterrupted sleep, far more than adults need.  Leave the kid alone and let him sleep!

Unless, of course, the kid, of his own free will, signed up for a job, or a degree, in which case, the kid needs to be there, #2 pencil in hand, or spiffy uniform donned and ready to fry, right smack when he/she contracted to be there, or else.  Part of becoming an adult is forcing oneself to do things one really doesn’t want to do, simply because it’s the right thing to do.  Many forty-year-olds still haven’t learned this.

HOWEVER, if that’s the case, these kids should have signed up for the midafternoon or evening class, not the morning class.  And since they did sign up for it, they need to honor their commitment. Most of my students have jobs.  That’s good.  All teens should pay for their own car insurance, dates, and fast food with the pals.  But if a kid can get up for fast food with the pals, the kid can get up for class.

Parents, please leave your teens alone on vacation mornings.  Do you really think he/she would have set the iPod and cell phone down and turned his/her back on them unless there was a very, very, very good reason?  Your kids are genuinely tired.  They desperately NEED that sleep.  It’s not laziness.  It’s biology.

Just be grateful it’s the kind of in-bed biology that you don’t have to lose your own sleep over.

So, old people, get up at the asscrack break of dawn if you are wired that way (bizarre) but leave other people alone. It’s a funny thing, but early-rising people always seem to love that time of day so much, they can’t conceive of anyone not being grateful to be awakened to share it.

News flash, morning people: If you don’t get out of here right now and leave me alone, I’m going to have to hurt you. I’m not kidding. The only good sunrise is the one you watch before you hit the sheets.

And I was even worse as a teen.

–Dracula’s daughter

P.S. If the teen has a real commitment, such as a job or a class, he/she needs a good LOUD alarm clock and some serious consequences falling on his/her head – not from you but from the college or employer – if there’s a question about whether or not to get up to meet that obligation. If you just want the car washed, you can bloody well wait until late afternoon. Sheesh. Go watch the sun rise and eat “breakfast” if it’s that important to you. Leave everybody else alone. LEAVE THEM ALONE. You are not like them, and they are not like you. They’re normal, and you’re a bloody freak.

Well, I feel better now.


Leave That Sleeping Teen Alone!!!!! — 16 Comments

  1. To say that people are wired differently and its just something that parents should accept is a difficult thing to swallow. I’ve witnessed first hand how adults who formed these sleep habits as teens struggle. I’ve seen it limit there options as professionals. Limit thier activity with thier children. I’ve watched it destroy relationships,when the partner is on a different schedule. I’ve seen first hand what sleep schedules can destroy. I’m currently trying to get my son out of his habits. He’s 18 and occasionally does his online schooling. He doesn’t get up until 2 pm. He’s missed his opportunity to graduate from his high school because he couldn’t get out of bed. His chance to join the military because he couldn’t get out of bed. He’s chose these paths. He can’t get a day job because of it and he has no degree so he can’t work a factory. There a few options for him. Especially in today’s society with the hrs being altered due to the virus. Even McDonald’s closes early.

  2. So I have a 13 year old daughter and I don’t have a problem letting her sleep but for a while now in the evening after I’m home from work she seems to sleep a lot in the evening. She says she sleeps all night after I go to bed but I’m just a little concerned because she sleeps at least two or three hours in the evening. Any suggestions?

  3. My son is Autistic, & has NEVER, EVER been a sleeper. He is a night owl & he could go to bed at 1AM & be up at 6AM some days! Since just after Christmas, he’s suddenly sleeping A LOT, & even having naps sometimes, which the only time he ever had naps before, was when he was sick. At first I was paranoid, checking to make sure he didn’t have a temperature, asking him if he had headaches or felt funny—but considering his appetite is normal, & there’s nothing else amiss, I chalked it up to puberty. He’s going to be 13 in March. He’s growing hair in “places”. He has acne. His voice is changing. He’s getting “man parts”. He’s turning into a man, basically. So now the kid is sleeping 12 hours a day! Sometimes more! It’s the first time I’ve had to start getting him to bed earlier. Thank God we homeschool!!!! For him to yawn during the day, be tired, & NEED sleep is just so foreign to us. I’m glad to know it’s normal.

  4. I finally get it. When I was a teenager, I firmly believe that people should be able to function with 4 hours of sleep, so I used to feel guilty when I slept more than 4 hours. I used to push & push myself until I just passed out at school or at work many times. No wonder I cannot understand my 16-year-old son who is sleepy and lethargic all the time.
    When he comes home from school, he just crashes on the couch. I must wake him up for the dinner. He falls asleep around 8 p.m., and no alarm can wake him up until in the morning. Just like you said, when there is no appointment and when no ride is scheduled, he would not get up. During the recent 2-week Thanksgiving break, He slept up to 20 hours three times. Lately, he favors 10 more minutes of sleep in the morning over eating breakfast.
    During this summer, I took him to the counselor and learned that he is not depressed. His primary doctor referred him to a neurologist for a sleep study, but I did not take him. Regardless of the diagnosis, whether it is a narcolepsy or even Klein Levin Syndrome, what can a doctor do? I do not want my son to be on amphetamine. Since my son refuses to drink any kind of drink with caffeine in it, he doesn’t even eat a chocolate, I once thought about giving him a juice mixed with some liquid caffeine to wake him up. Instead, I signed him up with a personal trainer at a local gym to have some adrenaline pumping. I am frustrated to the infinite power, but I am going to leave him alone after reading your article. If he can utilize his lunch period and free period at school to get a touch of the homework assignments and still pass his classes, I’ll be thankful. I shall no longer label him as a teen lacking will power, spoiled, or lazy, for I believe that he sincerely wants to get up but can’t. I’ll leave it up to God and pray. Please pray for me.

  5. While I totally agree in the same hand you better be careful. My daughter now has to have physical therapy because she slept so much and laid around so much she has just about loss all physical use of her body. She is just about wheelchair bound. First rule the Doctor told her is as soon as she wakes up she has to get out of her room and stay out.

  6. Thank you, you are spot on! Everyone is wired differently and as an “older” person I want to stay up late some nights and sleep in just like my teen. Let people be who they are, they will adjust their lives according to their responsibilities when they have them to take care of…our bodies, our choices and everyone else worry about yourself!

  7. I get you need sleep, yet at the same time you need to be respectful of your obligations. You state that “if” the child on their own chooses to schedule classes or obtain a job with an early start tome, this is the only reason they should get up early. My perspective is as follows: unfortunately until you attend college you need to abide by standard school time and therefore need to take responsibility to make it to school on time without having a parent drill you. Also, some chores do require day light and/or need to be done by a specific time in order not to affect other family outings or events. Parents can certainly work around some timing but at the end of the day if something needs to get done and requires a child to be up by 10am, then it is what it is. That’s called parenting and teaching your children responsibility. Now if as an adult they obtain a lifestyle that allows them to sleep all day and still make a living good for them.

    • Nope. My kids’s health and well-being and natural body clocks were always more important than a household chore. Teens are not wired like adults. Teens need their sleep more than toddlers do, and most teen’s body clocks are not set for dawn. I taught too many years to believe otherwise.

  8. I love this so much..my 13 year old is currently snoozing at 12 noon while I have been out shopping and enjoyed coffee by myself without feeling guilty at leaving her out. I often find she has had a growth spurt when she sleeps more than usual. I myself am an owl and would happily go to bed at 4 am every time. Sadly we are out of step with the rest of society.

  9. I get that they need sleep as long as they live up to their obligations. My 19 year old asked me to pick her up from school at noon to come home for Easter. It’s now 1:30 pm and she STILL isn’t up and moving. I am NOT happy right now. As far as I’m concerned, she can stay there and miss Easter dinner. I upheld my part of the bargain. She didn’t. Let her explain to her grandmother why she wasn’t there.

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more! I worked in high school (& would have started prior to turning 16 if I had known I could have bussed tables), and cannot tell you how many times I wished I could have switched schedules with the elementary school children. If high schoolers work until 9 pm or so, then come home and do homework, shouldn’t they be allowed to start school later – shouldn’t it be mandated?? I graduated w/ a 3.4 in high school, but really think I could have done even better if I were able to go in when the elementary school children did :o) Sleep is good for memory retention!

  11. Don’t forget the influence of light on sleep disturbance.

    Back when my daughter Jumper Girl entered her teens, she became a bit surly and snarky. Then one day we went to a sleep-away competition, staying in a rather down-scale motel. The first two days, she didn’t have to appear at the competition site until after noon, so I decided to let her sleep until she awoke naturally.

    The room she was sleeping in had blackout curtains, no alarm clock with a lighted face, and faced north. She’s also forgotten to bring her cell-phone charger so it was hors de combat as well.

    The first night she slept 13 hours and awoke her old, bubbly positive self. The second night she slept 14 hours and again, the daughter v.1.0 appeared!

    Now, I had taken William Dement’s sleep course in college and had read follow-up interviews, so I was primed for the face-palm.

    It wasn’t adolescence that was making my girl grumpy, it was sleep deprivation! She had several sources of light in her bedroom (a brightly-lit alarm clock, the various electronics, plus of course her cell phone. As it turned out, she was getting IM messages on her phone throughout the night.

    So when we returned home, I put black-out shades on her windows (which faced south-east), put all the electronics on a kill-switch, and made a rule she had to hand me her cell-phone at bed-time. I put some red film over her way-bright alarm clock face. It was still legible but only emitted about 30% of the light.

    I also made a deal with her that we’d try out a 9-hour sleep schedule for a week to see if her mood etc. improved. It cut into her homework time but I emailed each of her teachers to tell them about our experiment.

    Her science teacher was so intrigued by this that she worked a similar experiment into the curriculum, and later started teaching sleep hygiene as a regular part of the strand on the 8th grade human biology in the science curriculum.

    Here’s a great article by Dement for Stanford undergraduates


  12. thinkgeek.com has a clock that allows you to set seven (SEVEN) different alarms – so you can set it for a different time every day. My son wanted this for college and has sung its praises every time we talk.

  13. I completely agree with this, and I would add in adults who are perfectly capable of deciding when to get up (and go to bed) on top of this. Shortly after we got married, my husband and I were visiting with the in-laws, who know we are both night owls (and I mean the going-to-bed-at-3:00-am-or-later kind of night owls). We would come down at 9:00 or 10:00 am for breakfast and to socialize and always, always, always get an earful about how we were sleeping the entire day away. It finally stopped when I eventually retorted, “Well, we got five hours of sleep after going to bed at 4:00 this morning. How many did you get?”, knowing full well they had gone to bed at 9:30 or 10:00 pm and then got up at 6:30 am. I don’t think when you get up should matter to anyone but you (and your spouse, if you’re married, or your boss or other party to whom you have responsibilities, as you’ve already mentioned), and I hate it when people comment on that. When people go to bed at 9:30 pm, I don’t say, “Oooh, there goes that lazy person who can’t stay up later! You shouldn’t sleep the entire night away like that when you’re already up and have a perfectly good time going with friends and/or family already.”


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