Teens & Sleep

Parent Q&A

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  • Teenager's trouble waking up

    (5 replies)

    My son has always struggled with waking up. This has been the case for years so it’s not Pandemic related.  During academic year I’ve always gotten him up insisting he’s up before I leave for work.  Multiple alarm clocks around his room sometimes work. He’s now 18 so my ability to insist on an earlier bedtime is hard. He’s has a summer job that starts at 10:30 am.  I can take him while I’m still working from home and it’s only 10 minutes max from our place, but this can’t last forever. I’m ready to tear off the bandage which could result in missed work, going late, or even being fired. Not ideal for either one of us. What techniques have others employed to help their kid “set” an internal body clock and get their child to wake up with aids or even with no help?  

    Stumped and frustrated parent

    I'm the parent of two young adults, one who had a lot of difficulties along the way but is now doing great and one who has always been responsible/independent, etc.

    I suggest that you tell your son that it can't be your problem anymore. Tell him that if he wants your help in figuring out a solution, he should ask for it, but otherwise you are leaving it up to him. And if he doesn't ask for help, then don't wake him up in the morning! If he does ask for help, you could still offer to wake him up, but only if it's not a power struggle between you in the morning. Other ways he can wake up are more and more obnoxious alarm clocks in his room but far from his bed! But again, don't suggest this unless he asks for help. Also, if you are no longer going to be able to give him a ride after a certain date, be sure he know in advance what that date is.

    It's good for him to figure this out at a time when the worst consequence is losing his summer job... (if that does happen, be sure not to increase your financial support to him; he can easily get a job somewhere else since every place is desperate for workers!)

    Good luck!

    I'd have had an easier life in a number of ways if it were possible to "reset" my night owl body clock.  It can't be done. But obviously your son will have to eventually find his own ways of coping with an internal rhythm that doesn't match the way most of the world operates. Besides alarms, the biggest help for me is a timer on the bedroom lights, so that they go on before I need to wake up.  Also, change the alarm sounds every so often, because you eventually get too used to them.  Going to bed earlier seems obvious, but doesn't help much; typically you just end up lying awake until the time you're naturally sleepy anyway.  In college, I did not take 8am classes, and in my career it's been important to me to have flexible hours.  My 20-year-old is also a night owl; we have both been known to stay up all night in order to be somewhere important early in the morning. I can't pull all-nighters as easily as I did at 18, but it's still an option I'll consider at need.

    Honestly, as a parent, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Wake him up, since that works, when you can. Once he's living on his own and doesn't have that assistance available, he'll figure out his own strategies. My 20yo was the same way in high school, it was a huge effort to haul him up in the morning. But in college, no longer having parental help, he managed to get to class on his own; he currently lives alone and has a job this summer that requires a 6am start, and he manages that too. (He sleeps in the afternoon.) Most likely your kid will cope too.


    I have two kids that have a hard time waking up. One thing that you might check is whether your son has sleep apnea.  My daughter was tested with the take home system, it fell off.  She had had it on for 20 minutes and Kaiser reported she was fine.  Finally a referral to the overnight sleep lab which showed severe sleep apnea when reviewed as pediatric. No snoring but she had a stuffy nose.  Falling asleep in the car while I was driving...  The biggest success was surgery for a deviated septum.  ( They insisted she keep on with the cpap but she had minimal success.)  A takeaway Id like to share is that the overnight tech told me that the take-home harness is not a good way to evaluate sleep apnea.  Id also caution that you have them report using the proper age.

    My son has great difficulty waking up but has yet to do the sleep study. 

    Good luck, its worth a try!

    I strongly recommend contacting Lauren Asanrow, PhD at UCSF   
    im not sure the link i pasted is working, but you can google her name and sleep and it should come up

    My daughter would not wake up for school. We ended up screaming at each other while the carpool waited…Here’s what I did 1. Made an agreement that the carpool driver would wait 5 minutes them leave without her. 2. Paid her $5/day if she made the carpool on time. 3. I called into her room cheerfully (but not too) 30 minutes before carpool to tell her time to get up. Then I backed the hell off. It killed me not to remind and to rush her.  What am I, a control freak? Sometimes I got so anxious I would have to leave the house. 
    BUT she didn’t miss one carpool for those precious two months of in-school this spring. I needed to get out of the way and let her have the consequences. 

  • Do you have any experience with sleep assessments for teens, or particular sleep clinicians or clinics that work with teens? I would be grateful to hear your story. We're contemplating whether such as assessment would be worth pursuing for our kid. 

    Here's the context, FWIW: Our 18-year-old daughter is trying to find her way through generalized anxiety and depression, which has manifested variously over the years as OCD behavior, disordered eating, heightened risk-taking, etc. (She's been through CBT, DBT, nutritional counseling, talk therapy, psychiatric meds, and more. She spent a year in a combination of wilderness and an RTC and has been home for 18 months since "graduating" from RTC.)

    For the last 11 months, her primary maladaptive coping strategy has been deeply disordered sleep. Her circadian rhythm is inverted: She usually wakes up at 5pm and goes to sleep anywhere from midnight to 4am. She sometimes sleeps 17 or more hours at a stretch, and occasionally goes for four or five days with almost no food while sleeping nearly non-stop.

    Not surprisingly, she's dropped out of school, can't even contemplate getting a job, and doesn't often see friends. Life is going nowhere. 

    She is almost two months into a med transition from antidepressants to mood stabilizers, which her psychiatrist prescribed on the theory that perhaps the sleeping is part of a bipolar II depressive cycle. We've seen no improvement in the disordered sleeping as she titrates up on the mood stabilizer.

    So: While our impulse is to say, "This is just the latest iteration of her anxiety," we also think (and her therapist and psychiatrist agree) that she should get some formal sleep evaluation to rule out any underlying health issues. 

    Anything you can share about your experience--including recommendations for particular clinics or practitioners--will be appreciated. Thank you so much. 

    I would call Dr. Nick Pakzad at MUIR Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep Medicine.  The front office and Dr. Nick is thorough, kind and considerate. 

    I changed from California Sleep Center (formerly in Alameda and moved to San Leandro) for my sleep issues.  The problems with California Sleep Center were: 

    1.  No one answers the phone or returns calls; and

    2.  Main doctor, sleep little or no time with me regarding my problem. 

    In fact, when I switched to Dr. Nick's practice, the staff called to see if they could get some records (I provided them everything that I had) and NO ONE answered the phone for 3-4 days. 


    It sounds like you've been trying lots of things. We looked into a sleep clinic and there was a respected one at UCSF that you need to get on a waiting list for. Instead, we saw Dr. Cooper in Berkeley and she was terrible. It's not worth your time to see her, plus she was humiliating for my daughter. The piece of the puzzle that you haven't addressed is checking to see if there is any underlying medical issue which may be playing a role in her mental health issues. You don't mention if your psychiatrist is more along of integrative care or not. I mention this because sometimes infections (for example lyme disease complex, EPV, bartonella, etc) affect different stages of sleep and  can have mental health presentations. So you want to rule those out too as their treatments may affect how she responds to her psychiatric treatments, restorative sleep, and her circadian rhythms.  Good luck. 

    I'm so sorry that your daughter (and you) are suffering. This may not be related, but I highly recommend a new book called Breath by James Nestor. I'm still reading it but based on the studies cited about blocked airways and disturbed sleep I've made an appt for my teen to get evaluation by an orthodontist who specializes in airway disruption (Dr. Ferrari, in Kensington). There's another in Pleasanton, I can find the name if you're interested. Sleep apnea is a real problem, even among young people. After the evaluation I'll see if a sleep study is needed. They rent out the equipment overnight for $250. There are also apps you can use to record her sleep. Good luck!

  • My teenage daughter cannot wake up on her own, and I have facilitated this by always waking her up. She has also been on a medication that had a sedating effect, but she is tapering off of it and will be off soon. Additionally, she stays up too late at night and then is always tired during the school day, so she naps during her asynchronous times and I wake her up multiple times during the day. This is becoming a very big hassle and she is completely dependent on me to wake up. Do other parents that have experienced this problem have suggestions for me? I will be taking a multi-pronged approach to this issue.

    On a second note, she is a star student and extremely disciplined about her academic work, but her room is very dirty and disorganized. Both she and her father say that it is not a big deal, since it is her room. We did not establish a pattern of her cleaning her room regularly when she was younger, so unfortunately this is something we are dealing with at 14. More broadly, she feels like her job is to be a successful student, so she is very disinclined to do housework. She is also an involved athlete, so her spare time can seem relatively small between school, athletics and fitness. All of us in our family tend to focus on our work but let the rest of the house get disorganized, so this is a larger family pattern that manifests in the most extreme way with her.

    I would appreciate your thoughts on either of these issues.  Responses that are relatively constructive and kind are welcome- I already have plenty of negative self judgement about this situation. Thanks.

    I'm not a doctor but to me this sounds like depression or another medical condition. It does not sound usual to nap multiple times during the day at age 14. I would start with both a physical and then removing privileges like sports until she fulfills her household responsibilities.

    I agree with the poster who said this sounds very unusual and like depression or a medical condition. I’d solve that first. Then, to keep your own sanity, write down the things your daughter is doing right and feel gratitude every day. You’re lucky!! Then, I think the messy room is normal at 14 but if there’s a family dysfunction you and your husband should tackle this together vis a therapist or counselor. When you’re modeling an organized home, she’ll gradually get on board. And finally - I am very neat and clean. I run a tight ship. All rooms are 90% organized and I hate clutter. But ... all of my teen years my room was HORRIBLE. I literally carved a path from bed to door. My mom didn’t care much. There was moldy food on the floor! I had a (wild) mouse for a year! I often lost things for weeks. She did put me in full charge of my own laundry tho ... but the net is, the instant I moved out, I became neat.  Cheers

    As a parent that missed all the signs of my adolescent son’s 3 sleep disorders (Delayed Sleep Onset, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and Central Sleep Apnea), I highly recommend ruling out these diagnoses. Adolescent sleep requirements are uniquely demanding, as are a teen’s school and extracurricular activities. Which makes it all the harder to distinguish between routine fatigue and other more complex issues with sleep and rest. My son’s teen-like behaviors masked his sleep disorders. It took a home sleep test followed by numerous sleep lab studies to pinpoint the reasons for his energy swings, behaviors and sleep patterns. (And he lost his first year of college getting all that sorted out.) That’s my experience and recommendation: just be sure of what you are working with.

    I too had a kid who could not/would not wake up on his own.  I tried every kind of reward and consequence and nothing worked. I also tried multiple types of wake-up alarms (phone, music, alarm clocks)—none of which worked until I found a clock so loud even my son could not sleep through it. It's called the Sonic Bomb Extra Loud Alarm Clock (can found on Amazon). I put it on the other side of his bedroom so he has no choice but to get up to turn it off. My son HATED the sound of it but even he had to admit it worked. 

    Since your daughter is getting off a drug with a sedative effect, maybe wait until she's all the way off and then start not allowing naps during the day so her body can readjust to sleeping at night. If she has a phone, pad, computer, or anything else she uses in her room I would suggest removing them all at bedtime. Otherwise she is likely to stay up with them and it will be much harder for her to avoid daytime naps.

    The good news in your post is that she's a star student and very into athletics. That's amazing and you have every reason to be hopeful for her future based on that alone! If that were my kid I think I would be so happy that he was applying a work-ethic somewhere that I wouldn't care at all about a very dirty room.

    My daughter is 16 and is also an excellent student as well as an athlete, with both morning and evening practices.  We were in a similar situation as you that we didn't establish a regular chore routine when she was younger, since between school and athletics, she has always been incredibly busy.  However, a couple of years ago, we started asking her contribute to the household tasks in small ways - clearing the table and emptying the dishwasher as well as vacuuming and light dusting on weekends, for example.  I purposely picked tasks that could fit around her class and practice schedule but also emphasized that her father and I both worked full time AND drove her to/from practices, so she was old enough to also start contributing to the family.  While there was some grumbling (which I totally ignore), she did start helping out. Now that she's 16, she's matured a little bit and helps more around the house without too much prompting from us, including starting to do the laundry on her own.  Her room is generally a total disaster, but as long as she is helping to keep the household functioning and reasonably clean, my attitude has been that her room is her domain, and if she wants to live in filth, so be it. In terms of sleep, I can't speak to what may be causing the need to nap during the day, but while I've been lax about the household chores, bedtime has always been a non-negotiable. This is the only time I have threatened to restrict attendance to practice - she needs proper rest to perform her best in both school and athletics and if she refuses to go to bed at a reasonable time then I refuse to get up early to take her to practice.  Now that she's 16, we don't have a strict bedtime, but I still make her start shutting everything down for the night at a certain time, to ensure she gets a reasonable amount of sleep.

    Good luck!  it sounds like you have a great daughter, so don't judge yourself too harshly!!

    I was that kid decades ago, except I was in school in-person, so I was falling asleep during my classes. Is she a perfectionist? Does she spend too long (and stay up too late) getting all of her work done because of her standards? Does she take on too much? It sounds like she may be trying to do more than she can manage (between excelling in school and athletics), without a realistic sense of her sleep needs. And/or do you suspect time management/executive functioning difficulties?

    Whether this sounds on mark or off for your daughter, it seems she may have some needs that require support. Has she done a neuro-psych eval? Perhaps she has some particular needs that can be identified and supported. I'm going through that process now, after having struggled through adulthood as someone who performs very well in different performance-based arenas but has difficulty with other key skills. I'm learning a lot about myself! I wish I had gotten this support much earlier in life.

    As far as the housekeeping goes, I think a lot of people are experiencing their spaces devolving to whole new levels, since we're living in them so much more. In our house, we've started doing 5-minute bursts of "tidying." We try to do at least one a day; we play fun music to boost morale. Cleaning up a whole space can feel overwhelming, but 5 minutes we can all handle. We don't set goals for the 5 minutes, we just tidy whatever we feel compelled to, or whatever's in front of us. It adds up! We've started sharing all the house tasks more equally (for example, we all load our own dishes in the dishwasher)--all little things but that have helped a lot.

    I hope you're able to find some solutions and support that work for your family! I appreciate and feel for you!

    My 22 year has this same issue and uses several alarm clocks to wake up. Sometime we need to nudge her,. but it is working.  As for the cleaning of the room, well its a bit hard to do this if the rest of the house is a mess.  You need to establish more of a group effort on tasks to clean the entire house along with her room.  Also, let her know that no dishes/glasses are allowed in her room unless she brings them down and put in dishwasher.  Give her good examples and set a good standard, otherwise you are the pot call the kettle black as the saying goes.  Have one day a week that is dedicated to her making sure the room is neat.  

    Hi! I can completely relate. My 16 year old son can't wake up without me either, and stays up WAY too late too.
    His room is a mess. He is incredibly disciplined with his athletics(Jujitsu and Mixed Martial Arts) but is not a star student so I would say that is amazing that your daughter does her school work!! Our house is crazy and disorganized too sometimes- I feel that because I did not make this a priority sooner- constant upkeep of cleaning rooms-that I have to take a lot of this blame. The fact that your daughter does her school work and is driven to do athletics is really a great accomplishment. I do not agree with the poster who says it could be depression. As a teen I was very messy with my room too, but a good student and dedicated athlete as well. In time I became interested in cleaning and tidying. It is hard but for now I know that my job is to be the annoying parent and wake him up, bug him to clean his room, or even more annoying to him(and his 14 yr old brother) just come in and start cleaning myself! Many people might disagree that I should clean their room myself, but actually, when I have cleaned their room while they were out, they thanked me and obviously prefer it clean, so I feel that this sets a precedent that one day they will follow, and also it actually keeps me in a position of control- that I come in their room when I need to, to wake them up or clean or whatever, so they cannot have this space of complete control but that it is still part of the household. I often will not give allowance until they clean their room. Withholding money is one thing but do not withhold any passions they DO have, such as sports or academics! Praise and encourage their accomplishments and consider no allowance if chores are not done. The pandemic has been so hard on our teens. If they are still doing homework and fitness, to me that is promising and worth celebrating. I know it is frustrating. Keep the faith!

    I too have a busy teen that doesn’t like to do housework. First, I think you should give the medication time to wear off before expecting her to manage the waking up. Second, pick your battles. Let her decide which chores she needs to do. It’s normal for a teen to want to make her own path and make mistakes. Take joy in the success she has and the relationship you have. In the blink of an eye, she will be out of the house making her own decisions. 

    The napping during the day sounds a bit atypical but if she is physically and mentally healthy and is a star student the only issue I see is that you have taken it upon yourself to awaken her. Let her set her own alarms?  If she continues to sleep and misses school or teamwork she might find herself more engaged in the process of self regulation. The messy room is very normal. I just shut the door to my sons room and let him deal with it. Not big enough to fight over especially if she is such a good kid over all. Good luck! 

    This is a difficult and emotionally draining situation you describe. While the waking and cleaning are likely related, for the purposes of this response, I'll address them separately.

    You've noted that your daughter is tapering off of a medication that has a sedating effect. I would speak with her prescribing doctor about the sleep issues. What you describe does not sound like "normal" teen behavior. Your daughter is of the age where it is appropriate for her to manage her own waking if there are no underlaying health issues.

    As far as the cleaning goes, it will be difficult to support her in changing her habits if the rest of the family is similar, even if she is the worst offender. You might consider a re-boot for the whole family. Perhaps a family meeting is in order. Start small. Also, keep in mind that she is of an age where it is typical for the room to be a disaster. My daughter was a neat freak as a child. Once she hit high school it all fell to pieces--her room was a disaster. She was a high performing student and a two season athlete. 

    I have housecleaners come once a month. My daughter is expected to pick up her mess before they arrive. The cleaners do a thorough cleaning, but do not pick up clutter. If she hasn't picked up, they don't clean. Other than that, it's up to her to clean in between housecleanings. She's also responsible for her laundry and washing the dishes after dinner. After a year or two of her room being an utter disaster most of the time, she started getting tired of sleeping on smelly sheets, of clean clothes left unfolded in laundry baskets getting covered with cat hair, of food turning moldy in bowls shoved under the bed, of loosing homework and writing implements, etc. Her room is now relatively neat and clean (not to my "standard", but don't spend time in there). Caveat: if mental health is an issue (depression, anxiety, learning issues, etc.) that can manifest in one's lack of ability to maintain one's space. The mental health issues have to be addressed for improvement on the cleaning front. (I know this first hand from my second child, now a young adult. He, too, can now keep his room clean.)

    There's hope. Compassionate parenting will go a long way.

    Hi.  I do not have any advice but wanted to say that I am kinda similar situation with my 16 year-old-son (and also the 13-year-old daughter, but son goes extreme) - who does have the same sleep pattern/tiredness etc.like your daughter; and also does not clean up his room at all; nor does any household work.  He used to do chores until about a year ago. I myself am a bit disorganized and do not have very strict rules; but I wonder even if I had rules, whether they would have ignored those anyway. Our house is generally not very organized, but I have explained the need for cleanliness and organization many times.  I am wondering if this is more of a teenage thing.  I would actually love to hear stories of teens who keep their rooms neat and clean, are disciplined, self-motivated to do chores, helps family members and so on.  Take care.-SG


  • Hi all,

    My son plays clarinet in the 6th-grade band at King middle school. He has always loved music, but the zero period schedule is killing him (and us). He has a really hard time going to sleep early, even when he does all the right things (a regular bedtime routine, no screens, etc), and an even harder time waking up in time to get to music on time. Lately he has also been having sleep terrors in the middle of the night, which may or may not be related to the early wake up, but it certainly doesn't help things.

    Any tips from parents whose kids had similar trouble with zero period? I know that there's been a lot of research showing that adolescents need more sleep and are often naturally on a late schedule, so I'm wondering if we need to acknowledge that this is a physical/developmental barrier and not laziness, and just give up on zero period. But I also really hate for him to quit something he loves. (We don't really have extra money to spare for private music lessons, though I suppose we could try to scrape something together.)


    The zero period is exactly why my 6th grade son gave up his musical instrument this year. We knew that waking up that early wouldn’t work for him, especially since our older child (who is a morning person) did it a few years ago and it barely worked for her.

    Being at school at 7:40 is not developmentally appropriate for teens/preteens. There’s science that shows why and schools are starting to slowly adjust their schedules to be more accommodating of the healthy sleep requirements for kids in this age range, but they’re not all there yet.

    You are sacrificing your son's entire school day for the sake of zero period music. This isn't worth it even if he is completely impassioned by the school's musical experience. 

    Check out this website for reasonably priced private half-hour music lessons:      https://www.mansfieldmusic.com

    This teacher doesn't push kids to practice, but he encourages them to play music.  However, at home, by requiring my daughter to play 30 minutes most days, she is now an accomplished musician after eight years. 

    It's worth the $$ sacrifice if you can scrape it together. High school will offer your son more opportunities other than zero period. 

  • Our 12 year-old son (just finished 6th grade), who has always been happy and healthy has started having a lot of difficulty falling asleep at night. He is awake until 11 or 12, even 1am some nights unable to sleep. He is tired during the day, to the point of not being able to focus in class. He often comes home so tired from school that he gets in bed at 3:30 pm and just rests. He doesn't nap in the afternoons, says he can't sleep then either. After about a month, he finally confided to me that he is having a terrible fear at night that his heart is going to stop. He thinks about it at night and when the thought comes, he can't get it out of his mind. Sometimes he has the fear during the day but can usually distract himself by activities. We have tried a bunch of relaxation techniques and other sleep hygiene exercises that don't seem to help. If I lay next to him for an hour or so and reassure him, he can often fall asleep easier but not always.

    We don't know of any trauma or event that might have triggered this. I have asked him about issues at school and he truly seems like everything is fine. But I know middle school is always a challenge and perhaps there are things happening that he isn't sharing with us, although he always denies that anything is wrong or stressful.

    A colleague who is a psychologist recommended cognitive behavioral therapy and/or biofeedback therapy. Does anyone have any recommendations for a provider of those modalities who is good with "tweens"/teens? I have done some preliminary searching but would love some concrete recommendations. Any other ideas from the community are welcome also.  Thanks in advance!

    I’m so sorry that your son is going through this. I’ve successfully done my own Cognitive Behavior Therapy for my anxiety and it made a huge difference. I highly recommend CBT. I heard these are good CBTs who work well with teens: Amy Jenks, Orinda, www.bayareaocd.comDaniella Owen or Jonathan Barkin at the Center for Cognitive Therapy in Oakland  I also heard this book is great:https://www.amazon.com/Anxiety-Survival-Guide-Teens-Solutions/dp/1626252... Good luck! I hope he can work through this soon! 

  • I'm very concerned about my preadolescent who claims she "doesn't need sleep" and I frequently wake up horrified to find her up when I thought she was in bed. She has always had sleep issues: night terrors when she was small, talking in her sleep, alternating between insomnia/hypersomnia, etc. 

    These days she will sneak technology, such as taking back her phone or trying to negate some rules of mine, like being on the chrome book (required for school) in the night. She did homework for two weeks in advance and was drawing when I discovered her awake at 4:30 this am.

    Resources I've found so far include: an empirically proven machine that helps regulate depression, anxiety and insomnia; I've put in a call to the UC neuropsych clinic to have her evaluated; and I plan to get Disney Circle to give an externally imposed curfew. Her father is not a resource... unfortunately. Anyone who has "gone through this" would be very appreciated. 

    In addition to the insomnia, other concerns are the fact that she now refuses any food with nutritional value in favor of starch like cup o noodles, the fact that she will turn on me on a dime and start cussing or hitting, the typical noncompliance like my asking her over a period of four hours to scoop the kitty litter or feed him. She loves and gives him attention, but part of that love is taking responsibility, a foreign concept. This may seem normal, but it is extreme to me, lying and saying she's done it included. When I confront her,?expletives. This is a very hard time, and she is hard to handle alone! Thank you.

    I am glad to hear you are looking at getting her evaluated, it does sound as if she has a mental health issue. I recommend searching her room for drugs as well. I’ve known several people who acted in very similar ways and unfortunately they were all taking both uppers and downers. 

    She needs to be evaluated by a child psychiatrist. I think your instincts are on target - she may or may not be bipolar, but something is amiss. In the meantime, suggest you put all electronics in your room until Circle is set up, talk to her about what sleep actually does - see if reason might help. Perhaps give her very low dose gummy melatonin (for a week or so only). I'd push fast to have her evaluated by a psychiatrist and also alert her pediatrician immediately and potentially meet with them first. Sometimes listening to a non parent adult can help ...

    It's really good that you're reaching out for help. First of all, you're not alone--there are many parents out here that have dealt with all manner of pre-teens and teenagers who appear to be troubled or are spinning out of control. I'll mention some resources at the end of this message in case you'd like to meet other parents for support, to learn about resources, and to hear about strategies they've tried. It can be helpful to meet other diligent, loving parents who have read all the right books and are learning to face the challenges of parenting challenging children. It sounds like you already understand the risks of sleep disturbance and are seeking solutions. I concur that melatonin is a good place to start while you're looking into other approaches to deal with the situation overall. Matthew Walker, author of WHY WE SLEEP, advises taking the melatonin around two hours before bedtime, I believe. It's good that you're already on the list at UC for a neuropsychological evaluation. They tend to get busy in the summer--but their waiting list can often go more quickly than they predict--and they're half the price of other places. In terms of some of the behavioral issues that you've mentioned that are more troublesome (cussing, hitting, refusing to comply with technology limits), I wonder if getting some immediate support for you might not be helpful.  I’ve found that working with a parent coach is really helpful in terms of learning how to stay calm and reclaim parental authority, two things that can elude us when our children are extra challenging. I’ve worked with parent coach, Inge Jechart: she’s been working with me on a consistent parenting model. Just having someone to talk through strategies and approaches with is a huge relief. I’m sure there are more coaches out there, too. Inge’s contact info is: 925-963-6439. We’ve also had good “coaching” experiences with both Karen and Erica at Clear Water Clinic and at Coyote Coast Youth and Family Counseling—both of these latter programs cost more than individual coaching because you’re involving the whole family.

    It can be really helpful to partner up with a coach that has a grounded, consistent parenting philosophy--and is there to help you through tough moments. Literally, you can call her up for additional help in the moment--or just to vent so you can regain your footing and be there for your daughter. Coaching is often a cheaper route than therapy, though not a replacement (just more hands on.) There are also two free support groups coming up over the next two weekends run by Willows in the Wind (see below). I wish you all the best--this being a parent can be painful--and you'll need to take ultra good care of yourself to bring all the grace you can to a difficult situation.

    Oakland Meeting

    Saturday, March 17, 2018 
     Time:  1:00 - 3:00 PM
    Location: Kaiser Medical Building
     3600 Broadway, Lower Level, Conference Room C
     Oakland, CA, 94611

    Meeting Details San Rafael:
    When: Sunday, March 25, 2018
    Time 1:00 - 3:00 PM
    Location: 1104 Lincoln Avenue
    San Rafael, CA.

    Since you mention sleep--and she appears to be sleep deprived, you might want to have a sleep study. Look for apnea. There good be airway issues. There is a video promoting airway dentristy called Finding Conor Deegan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX5s4WNXK3M. It focuses on a younger child, but some of the behaviors are similar.

    I think you are creating this problem. You are asking her over and over again for hours to scoop the kitty litter? Stop that! Leave her alone. Scoop the kitty litter yourself. She has enough to deal with. It is important for parents to pick their battles. Don't fight about the dishes, or how clean her room is, or the kitty litter. Instead, find things she is doing right and compliment her. Such as, "It is so sweet the way you love that cat!" I suppose you could have her evaluated. But I think it is much more important that you learn how to parent. You need to read books, take classes and talk to a therapist. Your strict parenting is not working. It is causing her to rebel. You need to change your ways. 

    As the parent of an 18 y.o. who was just diagnosed with bipolar I think you are wise to get a thorough evaluation by a psychiatrist (and maybe more than one).   For our child the sleeping problems  (starting around age 12) were a precursor.  Teen and pre-teen behavior is so erratic, it is difficult to know what to be concerned about, but better safe than sorry.

    My son has had serious bouts with insomnia - after adjusting his medication, we are in a much better place, but I would say his ages 7-8 were a blur for all of us, with what you describe - refusal to fall asleep (which looks like defiance, but was ultimately figured out to be severe anxiety), then long, looong periods of wakefulness in the middle of the night. I wouldn't jump to a diagnosis of bipolar, but I would start with an urgent call to your pediatrician to get a referral. Not sure that UC neurospsych is going to be the right resource but I can't give you another name as we are with Kaiser. The sleeplessness can create all sorts of other problems, like the lethargy and anger you describe. The food issue could even be connected as her body is starved for rest, maybe carbs are all that sound good. Get that girl some sleep, and then explore her issues from there. Good luck.

  • Book for teens on the importance of sleep?

    (3 replies)

    Hi--I know there are lots of books out there on the importance of sleep for tweens and teens. I'm asking for two recommendations: 1) A really good book written directly for tweens and teens on the ways that getting enough sleep is important. and 2) The best current book or information source recommended for parents on the importance of sleep for tweens and teens. My daughter actually asked me what kinds of effects sleep (or not enough of it) has on your health, so I thought I'd try and give her something. I know that I can also look online and will do so, but I think she actually respects books a bit more right now. Thanks!

    I recommend reading a new book by Berkeley Professor Matthew Walker, called Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. You can find it on Amazon. There are really interesting recent interviews with him on podcasts of Fresh Air (Interview with Matthew Walker) and also The Hidden Brain (Eyes Wide Open, parts 1 and 2). Super compelling! I would highly recommend, and probably good for teens as well.

    Matthew Walker, is the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at  UC Berkeley has book out called “Why We Sleep.” I haven’t read it yet, but I did hear him on a couple of NPR shows/podcast. Your teen might be more receptive to a few podcasts than a book. The interviews were astonishingly eye opening (haha) for me. Look for him on Fresh Air (in October) and on 2 episodes of Hidden Brain (in November). He addresses teen sleep needs. 

    Sleep is SO important for tweens and teens (and all the rest of us.) Get a hold of Matthew Walker's new book Why We Sleep. There are excellent chapters in there about how sleep helps build our brains. The book isn't targeted to teens, but he writes in a very accessible style. Maybe your teen won't read it, but you can read it to her and maybe she'll pick it up herself. Good luck. 

  • Getting up in the Morning

    (4 replies)

    My 16-year old son has a really hard time getting up in the morning.  He sets multiple alarms but ends up turning them off while still half asleep, then konking out again.  It's become a real frustration for him.  He's a hard working high-schooler so going to bed earlier is difficult and never seems to make any difference anyway.  Has anybody out there successfully tackled this problem?

    This is just one of those things he'll have to learn to do, part of the boring buts of being an adult. He might consider putting his alarm (phone?)  on the other side of the room from his bed so he actually has to get up out of bed to turn it off. Once he's up, he can talk himself into starting his day. Other suggestion: eating a high-protein snack before bed (nuts, peanut butter toast, hard boiled egg, etc). so that his blood sugar level is not so low in the morning. Hope this helps!

    no advice but a ton of empathy for him, plus some data: 

    Schools start too early for our teens' health:

    Puberty changes sleep patterns radically:

    I have a feeling you're going to get a lot of advice being super judgmental of the kid, as if he's just being lazy or intractable, but he is dealing with very real biological changes! Again, I am sorry I don't have the solution -- but I've been there myself, and I know how frustrating it is. 

    There are alarm clock lights that brighten the room steadily for about an hour before wake time so it is easier to actually wake up. Also there are a bunch of apps that will wake you close to your alarm time based on the end of sleep cycle so it is again easier to wake up. Not sure of the names but maybe worth looking into. 

    Hi - sorry for the delay in posted but I do have a suggestion that was quite useful when I was a teenager ... and which my own son also benefitted from ...

    My father maddeningly used to spritz a little nice smelling perfume around my sleepy head in the morning. The scent would wake me up. Turns out that the limbic system is aroused by smell. You could try "energizing" scents (mint, lemon, etc ... maybe google what these might be). I used a particular lime smelling cologne for my son, and we tried a bunch of other essences. Not too much. But good smells definitely helped wake him up. Good luck experimenting.

  • How Much Sleep for Teen?

    (7 replies)

    I am the parent of a 15 year-old boy.  Typical teen, he can sleep until 11:30 a.m., noon or beyond.  This has become a real bone of contention between my husband and I, where my husband believes he should keep normal sleeping and waking hours -- waking him at 8:30 a.m. or so, and I believe he's sleeping because he needs it.  After some web research, there seems to be no real answer that I can find.  Is there an answer? 

    There are several good resources on teens and sleep. Most recommend that teens get about 9 hours a night, but few teens I know actually do. What most teens don't understand is that this actually slows them down -- better sleep means better concentration, focus, memory, and energy. Here are some links from:

    the National Sleep Foundation: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep

    the UCAL Sleep Center: http://sleepcenter.ucla.edu/sleep-and-teens

    and a good one from Stanford, arguing that sleep deprivation among teens is an "epidemic": https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/10/among-teens-sleep-depriva...

    Of course, knowing all this and convincing your teen are two different things.

    There is some research which points to teens needing 10 hrs. of sleep nightly based on how much growing they're doing.

    After raising 4 kids who all slept long hours as teens, I can honestly say that allowing them to sleep as long as they wanted made for a healthier and happier life for all of us. Of course they had to get their butts out of bed for school, etc. Teens, especially boys, need a lot of sleep.

    I have two daughters who do the same, you are not alone.  If you want him to get up earlier get him involved in something which requires him to get up early like sports.  My daughter use to sleep until noon, then she started playing basketball and tennis and now get up at 5:30am and can't stay awake much past 9:30.

    To answer your question of how much sleep teenagers need?  Everyone is different and needs change over time. The rule in our house is let them sleep.  There's a reason they need that much sleep for proper development.

    You haven't done enough research.  Teens need their sleep- I let my 13 year old sleep as long as he wants too.  Studies have shown that the early morning schedule of high school in particular does a teen no favors.  It's summer who cares if he sleeps until noon?  He has some job to get to?  At this age still, kids are doing their growing when they sleep so really just let him be.  What a silly thing for your husband to argue about- he sounds way too controlling and this will only lead to more issues with your teenage boy as he grows older.  Sleep is one of the few things your son should have control of.  So unless his dad has some fantastic reason for waking his son up at 8:30 during summer vacation then dad should leave son alone.

    I have read numerous articles about this and they all state that teens need 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Let him sleep! 

    I assume that he is sleeping this late only one weekends and in the summer, not on school days?  You didn't say what time he goes to bed and how many hours of sleep he is actually getting.  Normal teens need about 8-10 hrs of sleep per night and this is quite variable. My almost 15 year old gets about 9 hrs per night and will sleep in on weekends if he has been really active with sports or had some nights when he had trouble falling asleep.  I think it is well documented that teens circadian rhythms make them want to naturally stay up late and sleep in late and some researches have recommended that schools change to later start times to accommodate this natural rhythm.  And as a night owl myself, married to an early bird, having different people in the household with different sleep schedules can be very difficult.  I love staying up late because the house is quiet, I can focus on projects, but know that I need to discipline myself to stay on a normal bedtime or I would be going to bed naturally at 2-3AM and waking up at 9-11AM.  My teen wants to stay up late on weekends, but sometime I am tired or am trying to keep myself on a good sleep schedule and I don't want him wandering around the house or on computers and devices after all the adults have gone to bed.  He too needs to keep on a good sleep schedule.  Getting enough sleep is really important, and especially for a growing teen. I would say tell your husband that your son might need to catch up on sleep on the weekends, and help your son to establish a good sleep pattern during the week so it doesn't get totally out of hand.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Trouble Falling Asleep Not Getting Enough Sleep Bedtime Rules & Wake-Up Rules

Trouble Falling Asleep

Insomnia in 15 year old

July 2012

My 15 year old daughter who is finishing her freshman year in high school, is having difficulty falling asleep at night and sometimes difficulty staying asleep. This lack of sleep has been affecting her mood and overall sense of well-being. She has been taking melatonin, (because she and I were desperate), and it helps somewhat, but not enough. I was wondering if anyone has advice for dealing with insomnia at this age. I am thinking that meditation and/or yoga might help. Does anyone out there have any recommendations for a yoga class or a meditation class for teenagers? Thank you! Sleepless in South Berkeley

Try Ferber's book ''Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems.'' It's not just for babies, and has information on teen sleep patterns and issues. I recall my old version having whole sections on teens. My newer edition doesn't seem to pull out the teen material separately; you find it in the index under Adolescent. Worth picking up used or at the library for science-based ideas and background on sleep.

Keep in mind that teenagers generally are owls, not larks. My teens will all sleep until noon, including my daughter in college. Your teenager may be moving into that cycle, which is tough as schools aren't geared for it. In the meantime, I'd let her sleep in on weekends if you can; for my 14-year-old, who has a lot of mood issues, it's really important that we let him sleep in as long as he wants on the weekends to catch up. I think studies indicate that it's better to wake up at the same time each day for optimum mental and physical energy. I find that true for myself, but for our 14-year-old, it's just best to get him enough sleep whenever we can. Fortunately we can still get him into bed at 10 p.m. We'll see how long it lasts. are you still sleeping?

Hi Mom of 15 yo sleepless daughter, I have a few questions for you and suggestions...

1. Is your daughter drinking caffeinated sodas/coffee, eating chocolate in the afternoon, evening? If yes, those should stop. She shouldn't have any foods that might be stimulating (yes, even chocolate) after Noon probably, if at all. If she eats a lot of sugar she should think about cutting down on any sugary things in the afternoon and especially the evening.

2. Is she on the computer or watching TV before bed? She should turn both off at least an hour before bed. The ''blue light'' from both stimulate the brain and will keep her awake.

3. Does she have TV/computer in her room? They should come out or be unplugged before bed (and again, at least an hour before bed). Even when turned off, unless unplugged they still emit that blue light.

4. Is her room totally dark? I mean TOTALLY dark? Shades pulled down, no outside lights shining in, no night lights. Maybe try black out curtains or shades. This will make a difference in her ability to fall assleep and stay assleep.

Beyond that, meditation can be helpful. If she's someone who exercises she should do it earlier in the day, as exercise is a ''waker upper''. I can't speak for Yoga, as I haven't done it in many years. Warm tea may help soothe her nervous system...Chamomile especially, but I don't know how effective that is. Does she have particular stressors in her life that may be keeping her awake? Worrying about anything?

I hope some of this info helps. Good luck. fellow mom of sleepless teens.

Hi, I have suffered a lot from insomnia as well. Here are some things that have helped me: Get out in the sun every day and let your skin absorb the rays. This helps your body sense when it's day & when it's night. It's even better if you exercise in the sun & sweat. Avoid using computer/texting for @ least 2 hours b4 bedtime. Don't use computer in middle of night. It's the worst thing. The light from screen tricks brain into thinking it's daytime so your cycles get mixed up. Don't do hard homework or taxing mental chores or watch Rambo-type movies @ night. Have regular routine each night that you follow religiously b4 bed. Maybe you want to do homework, meditate, take a hot shower, listen to music, then go to bed. Do it your way, but make make it relaxing and try to go to bed & get up at same time each day, even on weekends. I don't recommend the 10pm news as you'll be watching fires, shoot-outs, riots etc.which may not be too relaxing. If I wake up @ nite, a hot shower is relaxing to help me fall back asleep. Avoid sugar, chocolate, soda, all caffeine after 3pm.

Most importantly, don't use bed 4 reading, computer, knitting, phone calls or anything but sleep. To do so makes your brain associate bed w/ being awake & active. Kaiser has class Mastering Your Insomnia that is helpful. --Sweet dreams!

Teen son has always had difficulty falling asleep

Oct 2009

Ever since my son was an infant he has had difficulty falling asleep. He has seen a homeopath at the Hanneman Clinic, seen a cranioscral specialist, taken natural sleep supplements, and tried a sleep program at the UC Berkeley Psychology Dept., all without success. My request is if anyone has dealt with sleep issues, esp. in teen- agers please let me know how you solved them. I feel I have tried almost everything I know.

as a fellow mom of an insomniac since birth, as well as a sometimes insomniac myself, i know of what you speak. and you and your son might not want to hear this, or maybe you will, but it might be time just to accept it, and realize that maybe, he's just a terrible sleeper/part of his hardwiring, and you learn to live with it. that's basically what happened with my son, and he's a pretty bright, happy, successful kid (he's now 21). one of my very best friends is also a lifelong insomniac, and she too has a very rich and rewarding life. sometimes there aren't solutions to problems, and you just learn to live with them, like taking naps when you can, sleeping more on weekends, and learning to cope when you feel tired. might not be what you want to hear, but it hope it helps. mom of lifelong insomniac

I have a 17 yr old daughter who has struggled with sleep since she was an infant. She showed a delayed sleep phase, unable to fall asleep before the wee hours of the morning, something that interfered big time with school. She would spend hours in bed, unable to sleep. The above affected her mood, anxiety level, alertness in school and school performance, weight,and her relationships with friends. We tried a myriad of medications, for anxiety, depression, etc. Finally, I had to switch psychiatrists in order to find a doc who was willing to put her on sleep medication, Ambien. My daughter is now a different person. She sleeps 8 hours a night. Her anxiety is much improved, the depression disappeared. She is no longer falling aleep in class and her social life is one of good and close friends. Once my daughter started on sleeping medication, the change in her was remarkable, in all aspects of her life. I wish I had gone the above route years beforehand. Peggy

My daughter has had terrible sleep issues since she was an infant. She is now a junior in college. During high school her lack of sleep was especially difficult for her to deal with. She finally went to the sleep clinic at Stanford, where she is a student, and received the best advice she ever got. She was told that for one month she had to get up every morning by 8:00 am and immediately (within 5 minutes) get outside in the daylight and exercise for an hour. She was never a serious athlete or exerciser, but for a month she got up every day and ran or walked for an hour. No matter what time she went to sleep (or didn't), she had to get up and exercise out in the daylight by 8 am. She was told that if she missed a day, she would have to start back at day one and then continue for a month. She also couldn't take more than one nap for 30 minutes during the day. She was so desperate that she was willing to commit to this regimen, and it made a world of difference. Now, whenever she falls back into a sleepless state she can get back into this routine for a few days and she's back to sleeping reasonably well (for a college student!). I highly recommend that your child give this a try. It may be that you will need a doctor or other professional to make the recommendation in order for it to be taken seriously enough to be followed conscientiously. Mom to a former insomniac

13 yr. old daughter is unable to fall asleep

April 2009

Hello, I need advice about my 13 1/2 yr. old daughter's inablility to fall asleep. She lies awake anxious and fearful about the dark. She has a nightlight and usually sleeps with the dog in her room.However, she goes into her little brother's room and falls asleep in his bed, disturbing him regularly. We thought she would grow out of it but it seems to be getting worse. She says there is nothing much she is anxious about at school, she's got friends and is generally of a happy disposition. All her fears seem to come out at night, although she cannot articulate them beyond ''I feel something's going to come and get me.'' Does she have OCD? Should she see a therapist? Please advise. Anxious mom

Hi. Yoga can help her calm her nerves. Also, having her get up at 6 a.m. and going out for a nice walk with her and talking about things might help her get to sleep as she'll be exhausted from getting up early. You could also try to lay down with her and listen to some calming music with her and/or touching her head gently as she lulls herself to sleep. Yes, she may be 13 years-old and some of these methods might seem to ''old,'' for her but she's desiring some companionship at night to help her with her night terros. Also, emphasizing to her that she's protected, loved, and cared for may help her with her anxiety. Good luck and cherish these moments with your daughter. I do these techniques with each of my sons in particular my 10 year old when he's struggling with his anxiety fits...good luck!!! mother, too

Hi, I recommend the book Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka which has lots of good perspective on understanding your individual child.

You might try out a couple of remedies available at health food stores--Rescue Sleep (Bach Flower essence)and Calms Forte (homeopathic). Also consider looking into the Emotional Freedom Technique--google it--basic instructions can be downloaded, learned at home and applied if she is motivated. This can be quite effective with fears. It is relaxing, and in my experience, helps some people fall asleep easily.

If you and your daughter want further assistance, there are practitioners around who consult on fears and sleep in brief therapy, such as Jill Shugart in Berkeley, and myself. (I have an interest in this area, did research on kids and sleep for sleepgarden.com, with booklet and CD of guided relaxation,and/or music--Zkids).

You are welcome to contact me to talk things over. Sleepy wishes, Jenny

12 year old needs help falling asleep

Oct 2006

Help! My 12-year-old daughter can't fall asleep on her own! She is taking long-acting medication for ADD so that might be a factor, but the truth is she has never been a good sleeper, and always refuses sleepovers, trips away from home and sleepaway camp because she is worried that she will not fall asleep and will be awake all night in a house/bunk full of sleeping people. She told me just last night (when she couldn't sleep and I wanted to!) that she doesn't ''know how'' to fall asleep. Any ideas? I'd even be willing to take her to a clinic if there is one that deals with such problems. She is starting to really feel bad that she can't spend the night away from us and frankly, my husband and I could use a break too! Mother of a night owl

Your daughter sounds very much like my 13 year-old son. He takes medication for ADD but, like your daughter, has never been a great sleeper. The trick is to get them to accept that it is OK not to be sleeping and not to feel all alone if they are awake while others sleep. My son listens to audio tape books and the sound of the human voice can feel like company. When he is at friends' houses or camp, he takes his IPOD. He can listen to music with headphones and could (but hasn't yet) downloaded books to listen to. It took him awhile to stop feeling anxious about being awake and it may be that your daughter will, as she matures, reach this place. Good luck. Jocelyn

I have a 12 year old daughter that also has trouble with falling asleep. We found something by accident recently. For years, I've been laying down with her when she goes to bed, and often falling asleep myself. Something that has made a huge difference (but is an unplanned surprise) is a kitten. The cat cuddles up to sleep with her every night, and they are both out in minutes. We also leave a low level light on, or the computer for light/sound. With the help of the kitten, she is now quite independent about bed time. Works much better than the stuffed animals! anderson

Nothing that a 2 hour daily soccer practice wouldn't cure. Probably'd get her off the ADD meds too. Sean

I sympathize. Sleep deprivation is awful, and young teens already have a hard time with their circadian rhythms shifting later than the school schedules permit.

You may get some responses suggesting behavior changes (afternoon exercise, nighttime reading or stretching or shower, nighttime ritual like talking together, music tapes in the dark, yoga, self-hypnosis, no TV watching before bed, not having a 1st period class so teen can sleep later in the morning) or dietary changes (chamomile tea or warm milk at bedtime, or carbs like fruit or bread, but no protein or sugar, after dinner).

I got a chamomile-based pill called Calm-forte at the natural food store at El Cerrito Plaza that the staff said was appropriate for younger teens. It helped my kids. Now that my son is 16 he occasionally takes melatonin before bed. You can get that cheaply at Trader Joe's. Either pill may be a placebo, but I don't think they're harmful. However, you might want to check with your doctor or pharmacist regarding drug interactions with food or supplements. good luck

I would be concerned as to whether the ADHD medication dosage is proper. As one who is generally critical of the use of stimulant drugs in children, I am very sensitive about kids who, while on this medication, have trouble with normal sleep cycles. Sleep deprivation (Inormal cycles) can be as harmful to the learning process as so- called ADHD. I would recommend consultation regarding the drug regimen. Robert

I am appalled by the negative messages about ADHD that have appeared in the last few newsletters. I am a psychotherapist who has treated both adults and kids with ADHD for many years. To say it is ''so called'' ADHD or to criticize a parent's decision to use medication is just wrong and uncaring. Try walking around in the shoes of someone who is dealing with ADHD themselves or parenting a child with this well documented and real condition before such criticism is spoken. Medication does help ADHD and was shown by one of the biggest studies done on children with the condition (the MTA study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health) to be the most effective strategy to use. My belief is anyone who doesn't want to use it shouldn't but parents of kids with ADHD have a big enough struggle without others condemning them for using the most effective treatment for this condition!That said, it is possible the medication dosage is keeping your child awake and it is wise to discuss that with your pediatrician. Melinda

I did not see the original post, but when my son had trouble sleeping in 4th/5th grade, I had success with melatonin, herbal based, avail. only in health food stores, and generally considered ''safe.'' I find that 1/2 tablet, about 30 min. before bedtime relaxed him enough to allow a good night's sleep. No side effects (that I can detect). His only other medicine was for allergy. Would also recommend physical exercise. If your child does not do competitive sports, try swimming 3-4x a week. After swimming lessons, my child no longer has trouble sleeping and the overall health benefits are tremendous. Anon.

13-year-old daughter has terrible insomnia

November 2001

Our daughter, 13, is a high achieving and motivated public school student. Starting last June, she began to have terrible insomnia. It continued through the summer, despite being engaged in vigorous physical activities. She swears that she is not worried about anything (except not sleeping). I visited the Food Mill (a good source of information on homeopathic/naturopathic treatments) and began giving her Passionflower/chamomile tea and Valerian. These seemed to have little or no effect. She tried adjusting her bedtime and waking time with no change. She increased her swimming in an effort to fatigue herself. Needless to say, she was a frustrated and fragile person much of the time; grouchy to her sisters, dad and me.

We consulted her pediatrician, who was not much help, but did say that she had seen several kids that week with the same complaint!

I had hoped, that when school began in September, the problem would resolve itself. It has improved, but she still has nights with little sleep several times per week. I just don't know what to think. After a day of school, swim workouts and hours of homework she should be exhausted, but isn't. She is not a nervous energy sort of person. Now I don't know what, if anything, I can do to help my daughter. She is becoming concerned because she must soon take the ISEE and other entrance exams for high school admission, and she wants to do well. Her dad and I are trying to keep all of this as 'low key' as possible, since we both find the pressures placed on such young kids to be unreasonable.

Is there anything else I might do to help her? I really don't want her to be medicated constantly, but she certainly needs more rest. Has anyone else experienced this with their daughter? Suggestions welcome!

a brief response/query to the mom with the daughter having insomnia -- it sounded like she was tired and fatigued during the summer, but I wasn't sure if she's still tired now. I only ask because my son has basically been an insomniac since birth -- he's always gotten much less sleep than his peers. My son's pattern is that he does fine during the school week, and then on the weekend he crashes and sleeps a lot (during the week he falls asleep b/t 11:30 and 12 and is up at 7:30, and often says he wakes up in the middle of the night). If she's functioning okay during the week, I'd just let it ride. Even though she says she's not feeling worried or stressed, she might be having some anxiety around the high school entrance exam, or something else, and the sleep disruption is just how the anxiety is coming out. asa

To the parent whose 13-year old daughter has insomnia, your daughter probably IS feeling exhausted, but just is unable to relax or slow down her brain enough to go to sleep. I remember that I had sleep problems also at exactly that age. They lasted for several months, and then gradually went away on their on. I think that was the year when I first began taking advanced classes in school. It is a busy time for kids - lots of new stuff to take in and deal with, lots of hormones swirling around, school and social issues, and family too. Your presence probably is a comfort to her, and it sounds good that you are trying to keep things low key. I remember that I finally would fall asleep that year around 2 or 3 a.m., usually after I woke up my mother and had her sit with me for a few minutes while I had a glass of milk and a cookie.

Do you have Kaiser coverage? I know that Kaiser has a program to help people who are having sleep problems. It is an amazingly common problem. You might also consult a therapist. While you may not want your daughter to rely on medication as a permanent thing to get to sleep (completely understandable concern), she may at this point be feeling so worried and anxious about whether she will be able to sleep that she is too wound up to let go and get there. I consulted a psychiatrist at Kaiser when my sleep problems briefly resurfaced as an adult. He prescribed an antidepressant which he said was not addictive. I did use it sometimes and it did help. When my sleep problems got better, I stopped using it without a problem.

I found the sleeping class even more helpful tho' because it gave really good practical tips on how to help yourself sleep. Here are some of the top tips I heard there: Try to get up and go to sleep each day at pretty much the same time - so that is weekdays and weekends alike. If you sleep in on weekends, you are not as ready to go to sleep at your normal time (say on a Sunday). (I resisted this advice at first because I dearly love sleeping in on the weekends, especially after not falling asleep until late or being sleep deprived from the week, but I finally did try just routinely getting up EVERY day at 7 a.m. or earlier and it really did seem to help.) If you fall asleep late or have trouble sleeping at night, still get yourself up early and do NOT take naps. Try to use your bedroom only for sleeping. If your daughter is doing homework in her room she may associate the room with thoughts of school and have trouble relaxing. If she uses her room to watch tv, she is getting used to thinking of it as a place where she does things other than sleep. It is good to get used to using the room (and associating it) primarily with sleep. Don't look at the clock as you are getting ready for bed or while you are in bed or if you are having trouble sleeping - it just makes you more tense. If you don't fall asleep within a reasonable time of going to bed (e.g., 10 or 15 minutes) GET UP and go do something in another room that is not stimulating or stressful - read a book, whatch tv, sweep the floor - until you begin to relax, then go back to bed and try again. If you remain in bed for too long not sleeping, it reinforces the notion that the bed is not a place where you sleep. These things helped me a lot. I hope that they help your daughter. Hang in there, and good luck! Sleep problems are a giant bummer but they probably will improve with time. DMorris

Do you know whether or not your daughter drinks anything caffeinated - colas, frappacinos, etc.? Some people are mighty sensitive to caffeine.

I would get back to that pediatrician and ask for a referral to a sleep clinic. You also might do a psychological evaluation; your daughter may be more stressed than any of you realize. She's at a very anxious point in life, when childhood is clearly coming to an end and the direction of her adult life has not yet come clear.

There are some mental tricks for getting your conscious mind to let go that she could learn from a psychologist or clinic, or probably find by researching the internet. I have had insomnia all my life and have had good results using time-released melatonin (Long's sells it). Another remedy that has been helpful is Hylands Calms Forte. Hot milk in combination with one of these works well for my ordinary insomnia episodes.

Insomnia is one of those things that you deal with intermittently all your life, if you're one of those people that gets it. You are doing a very good thing to help your daughter learn how to deal with it. Good luck; I hope you find her the help she needs. Louise

I recently went through several health issues resulting in my sleep patterns getting totally screwed up. My doctor put me on ambien for the next two weeks to get me back on line. He has done this for me before and it has helped tremendously. I'll sleep for at least six hours and I don't wake up groggy. This is not a long term treatment. It is only meant to teach your body to get back on track.

Find another doctor or mention a short term sleeping aid to help her body adjust back to its normal cycle. For whatever the reason, your daughter's sleep cycle has been interrupted and she needs help getting it back. Not being able to sleep is hard enough on adults. I can only imagine what it's like for children who need more of it. marianne

I also have a young teenage female athlete who periodically cannot unwind. She has found relief through acupuncture and hypnotherapy. Marilyn Gordon is a resourceful hypnotherapist in Oakland who makes custom tapes for issues like these. She has experience working with children and teens. Years of experience as a hypnotherapist. Our daughter was also in the first year of her menstrual cycle. The acupuncture and herbs were helpful in smoothing out some of the raging hormones that were keeping her restless.

Re: daughter who isn't sleeping. This sounds biochemical to me. I'd go to a good psychiatrist.

I would like to reply to the parent whose daughter has insomnia: Our 15 year old son has had sleep difficulties for years, but the problem became extreme this past summer. He has Tourette's, so our pediatrician recommended we talk to the neurologist. The neurologist recommended melatonin. The melatonin works very well - almost too well: on the nights he takes it, our son falls asleep quickly and sleeps through the night but he is often dozy and difficult to wake up the next morning. We're still trying to find the best dose.

Since melatonin is a hormone, it is really important to talk to your daughter's pediatrician before initiating therapy. As a pharmacist, I would caution against using prescription sleep medications (Ambien or the various benzodiazepines, such as Ativan or Restoril). These drugs can cause dependency and, as such, are inappropriate for use in children and teens.

I recently heard an interesting program on KPFA, on the issue of sleep. Here are my notes.

We live in a society that does not understand fatigue. We think that we need sleep when we are sleepy (ie. can no longer focuse, concentrate or stay awake). That is not correct. By that point, we have become over tired. We should instead go to sleep when we are tired. Often, when we pass the threshold of being tired, and stay awake, we become wired and then have a difficult time falling asleep even though we are more fatigued.

Here were some suggestions:
1) develop regular sleep pattersn. ie go to sleep at a regular time;
2) get more sleep if you wake up fatigued. One should wake up refreshed;
3) Go to sleep feeling pleasant - have a hot bath, do something relaxing. Do not get into an argument or exciting conversation, or watch a scary/exciting movie.
4) Have your place of sleep be pleasant and comfortable (good sheets, bedclothes, mattress)
5) make sure your room is dark. Light will cause sleep disturbances including night lights

The doctor interviewed considered good sleep a foundation for good health.

I don't have much to add except that my own son often experiences the same thing. It was MUCH worse last year and the year before while still in middle school during which he was also increasingly depressed and seriously at risk of failing. I think kids in public middle and high schools these days experience more conflict, noise, crowdedness, pressure, multiple priorities, stress, substance abuse temptation, aggression, and higher work load than most adults, except perhaps the understaffed, unsupported teachers and counselors who work with them. Its an insane environment for anyone.

Now that my son is going to Arrowsmith Academy, he is so much happier, relaxed and having fun learning than I've ever seen him. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off our whole small family of three. He still sometimes stays up too late on weekends with friends, and/or has trouble getting to bed and waking up in the morning but he is so much more able to be self-regulating in managing his sleep needs.

I too would love to hear more about sleep deprivation and changing natural sleep cycles among teens. In particular, I'd like to hear more about what Eileen Hadidian mentioned in her comment:

Studies have shown that teen's biological clocks shift during puberty, and not only do they need more sleep, but they naturally stay up longer and need to sleep longer. Their brains don't start functioning at peak until later in the morning, around 8:30 or 9:00 am. Sleep deprivation amongst our teens is brought on by the multitude of responsibilities they have and by their own natural sleep cycle, which may be impairing their ability of learn and retain information. Thank you for bringing this up. Tani

Editor Note: there is some info about this research on the web here: http://my.webmd.com/content/article/1728.60579 (WebMD website)

Regarding Ambien, I have used it several times in the last three years to help me get my sleep cycle back to normal (usually after an illness or too many allnighters at work). What was not said about it, is that if used as doctor-directed and for a short period of time (two weeks is normal), it can help your body adjust to a normal sleep cycle which is what you want. I found no grogginess in the mornings with it. I slept for six hours and woke up alert. Don't be afraid of trying something that might help. All drugs have the potential of misuse, but all of them also are there for a reason. Definately talk to your doctor.

Mine is up to date on all the medications and procedures and has changed my prescriptions and treatments a few times because of new things he learned about, so I trust his opinion. Your doctor will be better able to rule out causes for the insomnia and figure out what's best for your teen. Good luck. Marianne

My 14 year old had been complaining of difficulty falling asleep for about 2 years. She seemed to stay up later and later and getting her up in the mornings to get to school in time was a nightmare. We tried everything--giving her the responsibility (and if she missed school, the onus was on her), helping her wake up, extra-loud alarm clocks strategically positioned (which she slept through.

Then, she joined the Berkeley High crew team. The afternoon practices gave her an excuse to stay up later to complete homework. She wanted to quit crew (which we refused to allow because she had quit every other sport up to that point) We worried about how she was going to manage crew, school, and studies once practices shifted to 5:45.

What a surprise! When she had to started getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get to 5:45 (2 hr) practice sessions, no more sleep problems and no more complaining about quitting. The change was instanteous. She gets up on her own so as not to miss her ride and look irresponsible to her peers (we car pool); she now goes to tutoring after school on her own volition to get help with 2 of her courses. She comes home, does several hours more of homework and is in bed (on her own volition by 10:00 p.m. compared to 12:00 and 1:00 a.m. before) and is asleep within minutes). She's now a solid A student. Go figure. Was it a change in sleep schedule? A shift in exercise schedule? Peer pressure?

Not Getting Enough Sleep

Geez Louise, How Much Sleep Does a Teenage Boy Need?

July 2011

My son is going on 14, and it's unbelievable how much he sleeps!! He is sleeping right now, and if i don't go throw water, ice or something worse on him, he will just stay in bed until like 1:30pm! True, we got back after 12:10am from watching fireworks last night, but even @ county fairgrounds he plunked down on a towel and zonked out @ about 5:30pm.

This started at age 11 (middle school, which he did not like). He'd been in martial arts but decided to boycott it since he did not want to get up @ 8:15am anymore on Sat. Now he has no extra-curricular activities except the computer (to the point that he had to get glasses this year when all his life previously he'd had 20/20 vision), occasional bike rides & visits w/ friends. When I take him out to beach, swimming, fairs etc. it's a HUMUNGOUS effort to drag him off the bed & requires threatening, pleading, throwing water etc. until finally i lock up computer (or threaten to) & that gets him up.

Fortunately he attended ID Tech Camp last 2 years, which is educational, fun & good use of time (though I'm not sure if it's sociable, since he didn't make any friends there). I also get him into summer camps where they go fishing, bowling, 6 Flags, etc. (he often says ''Big whoopee'' sarcastically about all the above, since he only seems to love the computer). But between the extended lengths of time in bed & the extended time sitting on couch using the laptop I am worried that 1) He doesn't get enough fresh air, exercise & blood circulation, 2) The computer use is actually making him more lethargic & less inclined to go out & play (I already know it can cause insomnia) and 3) he is turning into an old man way before his time--that is what he seems like, laying in bed or sitting on the couch all the time.

He is in therapy, but so far I don't see anything changed @ all and am wondering what the use is or how long before any results are seen. I took him for a physical & it was normal, no anemia, nothing but Vitamin D deficiency (I got vitamins).

What is a parent to do? Is this ''normal'', a passing stage? I did not go thru this @ this age, nor did any of my friends! Is too much sleep harmful? When it's 4 of July and i have plans to go to the Fair (he agrees that the rides, shows, fireworks & all are fun) I cannot even get him up for that & we end up getting there at 3pm--more than 1/2 the day wasted, & no time to see animals, etc. There was barely time to go on 3 of those free rides we all like so much. Any suggestions, comments? This can't be normal

What you are experiencing with your son sounds a little familar... When I was about 11 or 12 I developed a thyroid condition that zapped me of energy. Before I was diagnosed, when I'd go to a friends house to play, all I wanted to do was lay on their bed!!! I was really an athletic kid prior to that.

As an adult female, I still have to monitor my meds to make sure I'm getting enough or not too much thyroid hormone, etc. Thyroid conditions are ususally pretty benign but I would encourage you to have a complete blood work-up done on him and also have his thyroid levels checked.

He may be experiencing the normal teenage indifference, but it's worth checking. Good Luck! Mom of a Pre-teen

To a certain extent it's normal. The boy needs a week at the river with no gadgets, just animals. You might want to have him looked at. It could be depression or Chronic fatique syndrome. Does he sleep at night? Reenie

I know your son is going to a therapist, but has he been evaluated for depression, or anything under the pdd (pervasive developmental disorder) umbrella? A good psychiatrist for teens is Zena Potash in Walnut Creek. Her phone number is: 925-934-6238. Karen

The answer is lots! I slept for about 10 hours a day as a teen and was an A student and Varsity athelete (and grew up to 5 inches in one year). Once I headed to college I decided for myself that 10 hours was like spending half of my life asleep and I cut back. Most kids are sleep deprived, IMHO, these days. Just make sure he isn't sleeping during the day because he is up all night on the computer or phone (not unusual). cocosar

I have sympathy rather than solutions for you, I'm afraid. First, I do think that kids this age need a lot more sleep. I've had a few teens through my home (biological, guests and foster) and was often amused by how they would just conk out on the couch during family time. Some woke fairly easily, and others just couldn't be roused. My oldest child (now 21) still typically sleeps until noon when she can. And at this very moment, I'm wishing my 13-year-old foster son would get up and get to camp on time.

It is really, really hard and sad when you want to do family things and your teen or pre-teen won't get up. If you've confirmed that your son isn't depressed or having a sleep disorder, then you might have to just accept that this is how it's going to be for a while. Make sure his bedtime is early enough. If his sleep cycle seems off, check out Ferber's ''Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems'' which includes lots of useful info on teen sleep behavior.

Some tactics: Set limits on how much screen time he gets (we have a weekly amount, with ways to earn and lose time for good or bad behavior for our 13-year-old). If he's old enough to be left alone, then go do things without him--let him know without angst or anger that you won't wait all day for him. During times when our son is out of screen time and wants to stay home rather than go out and have fun, we also quietly put away the computer cords. Set some minimum requirements for time spent in physical activity or out of the house or at camp, and use the screen time for leverage. Since our foster son is very anxious and would rather hole up at home than interact with the world, he earns double-time for physical activity (half-hour of ping pong equal an hour of screen time).

As far as the sarcasm and bad attitude are concerned, those might be age-related too. My eldest was not like this, but my foster son sure is, and the feedback I've gotten from this list is that it's typical. It stinks. Try to let him make his own decisions and pay his own consequences. Insist on attendance at some things, especially those not in the morning--we insisted on a baseball game which our teen loved despite the grumbling and but-whying beforehand. Let him miss out on the morning things if he won't get up. Lord get me through this age

Another possible factor might be how much screen time he gets. A recent study showed that men who used LEED (flat screen) computer monitors got exposed to more blue light than the old-fashioned, deep monitor. For some reason this suppressed their melatonin (sleep hormone) production and kept them more alert for hours afterwards. Fluorescent (curly) light bulbs and flat screen TVs also have more blue light than incandescent bulbs and old-fashioned TVs. You can't do anything about cell phone and laptop screens. Good luck!

Teen stays up half the night, falls asleep in class

Nov 2010

When a child is a night owl, stays up half the night to read, can't wake up in time to go to school on time, is very smart but getting bad grades because she falls asleep in class, what do you do? B.

Sounds like a great time to set some boundaries and ''house'' rules. That means lights out by a certain time; 10 pm 11 pm whatever fits your family. You might also try no phone calls after a certain time at night especially on school nights. If they have a cell phone they can put it in the community drawer along with yours after a certain time at night. Your teen won't like these rules, but if you are confident, firm, kind and most of all, consistent, you have a much greater chance of being successful. School is a teen's job just like getting up and going to work is a parent's responsibillity. There is simply no negotiating. If you waiver and behave inconsistently they will too. A parent's job is to set boundaries in their household for an acceptable standard of behavior. Do it now before it gets out of hand. Attach a consequence, bad grades means no going out on weekends or whatever you decide. Find other parents you can talk with about raising teens. Start a parenting group. Perhaps the school can help you. Most of all and I urge all parents ''DON'T WORRY ABOUT MAKING YOUR TEEN MAD/ANGRY''. They get mad and angry especially when you enforce rules but that's your job. jan

Make her a big cup of coffee in the morning. ;} Pam

What about something like Berkeley High Independent Study - other districts might have something similar. The schedule is a lot more flexible -- the student checks in with each teacher once a week to get work checked and get new assignments but otherwise studies on his/her own. This worked well (for a while) for my night owl; he would schedule his appointments with teachers for the afternoons and then he could sleep in and study at night on his own time. But this only works if you have a kid who will get the work done on their own. Otherwise I think it would be in your kid's best interest to work on re-calibrating his schedule so he can be awake during the day. anon I am surprised that no-one gave what to me is the obvious reply - have the child take an afternoon nap!

All my kids were night owls in their teen years, some still are as adults. I don't think that forcing them to go to bed works. Even without a cell-phone or a computer they stay up. One likes to read before falling asleep. One writes poetry in her journal. One loves to paint and draw till 1 am! and one composes music till all hours. I think it has to do with the way the teenage brain develops, that their creativity bursts in the wee hours.

In addition to healthy food (no sweets), I had them take vitamins and minerals, plus fish-oil, to make sure their health is supported. I explained about the importance of 8 hours of sleep (out of 24)for their brain and body. The afternoon nap did wonders for them.

If your rules accommodate their quirks, there's a better chance that they will listen to you. accommodating mom

This is an interesting podcast on parenting teens. One of the speakers said that lights affect melatonin production, and even bedtime texting can disrupt their sleep. http://www.marinjcc.org/cjlpodcast/ mom of a tired teen

14-year-old averages 5-6 hrs of sleep per night

Feb 2008

We have a 14 yr old who can not self regulate to get 9+ hours of sleep each night. When younger bed time no problem. Now, doesn't get to bed before 1:00AM. Averages between 5-6 hours per night. Teen feels it is the only free time they have. Stays up reading or sneaking the computer. Have locked up computer but wonder if that really helps teen to self regulate. Have any suggestions?
concerned parent

My advice is not to worry. Most teens only get 5 to 6 hours a night of sleep anyway and then catch up on the weekends. It's the same with many adults. When I was a teen I remember staying up until 1 am listening to the radio (long before there was an Internet) while doing homework, etc. Locking the computer is probably a good idea. Anon

16-year-old daughter has never been a good sleeper

August 2005

My 16-year-old daughter has had sleeping issues all of her life. She has never been a good sleeper (and when I was pregnant with her I also had trouble sleeping--the only time that has ever happened in my life). It's gotten to the point that there are nights when she reports not sleeping at all, just tossing and turning in bed endlessly. She seems exhausted in the mornings, but rallies during the day, and by evening is once again wide awake. She goes to school, does her homework, is involved in activities, and otherwise leads a normal life, but I know she is tired much of the time, and both she and we, her parents, are concerned. Her pediatrician has heard our worries for many years, and has given advice which has never helped much. At her last visit he gave her a prescription for sleeping medication (can't remember the name offhand, and I just took it in to the pharmacy to be filled). She's hesitant, as are we, to go down this path, but feel powerless to do much of anything else. She's tried all the usual remedies--keeping to a routine, drinking warm milk, sleepytime tea, yoga, etc. She says she just can't turn off her brain at night, and she is a very cerebral kid! Any advice? I've thought of biofeedback, therapy, meditation, but have no leads to pursue. Would welcome ideas from anyone who has been there and found something that helps. anonymous

I have no personal experience with sleep disorders, but reputedly the best place in the country is in Stanford: http://www.med.stanford.edu/school/psychiatry/coe/

''Stanford University Center of Excellence for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Sleep Disorders''. Your pediatrician can be expected not to know much about a special area of medicine like that. Good luck!

I had insomnia when I was a teen too. I didn't have any good methods then, but now when I can't sleep, I meditate and it helps alot. I would have her practice every day just breathing, eyes closed in a quiet room, and focusing on the way the breath feels coming out of and going into her body. It does take some practice to keep your mind quiet but you get better at it with practice. Then when she wants to go to sleep, she can meditate herself to sleep - works for me right away every time. anon

My daughter is 14 and was also having trouble falling asleep. I think it's a sign of anxiety. I know that she also has many things on her mind. I have been thinking about us learning meditation together, and want to encourage her to write out her thoughts earlier, before bedtime. I have given her herbal remedies before with on and off success. Some of those that might work for your daughter are: a homoepathic remedy called ''calms forte''; valerian; a combo of tinctures of passionflower, skullcap, & camomille. But I have to say the best thing that has worked is when she has been VERY active during the day. She just started long- distance running and has been falling alseep the minute her head hits the pillow! It's wonderful! I hope it lasts!! fingers-crossed mom

Just like your teenager I had problems turning of my brain. I think it started during my teens and endend somewhere in my twenties. What helped me was putting a pen and noteblock next to my bed. Every time a though enterend my mind I would write it down. Either to remember, I would toss and turn just because I was afraid to forget something, or to get rid of things that kept bothering me. Putting it on paper got it out of my system. It is a simple solution and definetly worked for me. I wish I had known it earlier. Hope it will help your daughter. Good luck anon

I too have struggled with insomnia off and on my whole life. I was very reluctant to try sleeping pills and waited until I was in my late 40s to have a go. Boy, do I wish I'd used them earlier! They're certainly not perfect, and have to be used judiciously. I try to never use them more than three nights in a row. However, when it's a choice between lying awake in bed for hours and sleeping, sleeping is much, much better, no question.

Also, has your daughter tried Melatonin? This also has to be used with some care, but the timed-release seems to work pretty well, though not on the worst nights. For that I use the sleeping pills.

So, my advice is to go slowly and carefully, but use the pills when they are needed and don't worry about it. Good luck. Dianna

Try acupuncture! I had insomnia for MANY years and acupuncture has cured me! Several other family members have also been helped. We see Carla Cassler in Berkeley. She's great--both of my kids have gone to her for years, and she's terrific with teenagers. No more sleepless nights

hi. I have struggled with insomnia for most of my life, beginning in my early teens. I don't have much in the way of advice only to add that I have come to the realization now at the age of 29 that I just don't need as much sleep as everyone else. I tried lots of things and I would stay away from drugs as they do not give the same quality of sleep, they are addictive, and when weaning yourself off of them the side effect is insomnia, so in my case for one night of drug induced 4 hours sleep I was sleepless for the next 3 nights getting the stuff out of my system. What works for me now is exercise early in the morning, and using ear-plugs and an eye-pillow to settle myself into sleep at night, and not watching any tv in the evening to start my mind going. But I still don't sleep much. If your daughter is have trouble with school or living her life I would recommend seeing an accupuncturist, Pat Lollis is the one I went to she's in Albany, at my worst accupuncture was what worked for me. If she seems to do just fine on no sleep, get her a hobby like knitting and let her know that in college the ability to function with less sleep will come in very handy during finals and even handier if she one day decides to have children of her own... sleepless but ok with it

When I read your e-mail it stuck a chord. As a child- and sometimes still- I had trouble turning my brain off at night. My mom tried this meditation type of exercise with me that worked very well- none of the other stuff you mentioned worked for me either. Basically I just have to close my eyes and imagine everything from that day that is going on in my head, and then push it out slowly while taking deep breaths (like elevator doors opening onto nothingness). I've always imagined a blank white screen. Whenever something tries to creep in, I just push it back out- I can't let the thought get in to far or I have to start over. My mom used to talk me through it in a very soothing voice when I was young and it would sometimes take awhile, but over time, I got much better at clearing my mind and making my thoughts stop. I empathize and wish you luck.- oh one other mediatation trick that I picked up is to ask yourself ''why can't I sleep?'' and then follow the chain of questions and answers until you feel you have come to a concrete answer that can hopefully be acted upon- for ex. can't sleep b/c I didn't apologize for ...- I'll get out of bed and write a letter. It just feels good to take control and sometimes that one action will make me feel that I did something and the rest can wait till tomorrow. Sorry this was longwinded- good luck. anon

I would suggest you look into Calms Forte. You can buy it over the counter at Whole Foods and similar places. This is what I have recently found to be extraordinarily effective for my own insomnia. I have exactly the same problem as your daughter - I can't turn my brain off at night! Calms Forte has, surprisingly to me actually, worked wonders for me. Your daughter's mileage may vary. Might be worth a try. Good luck! sleeping MUCH better now :-)

Teens & sleep deprivation

November 2001

I would like to get some feedback and perspective from parents. I have an ongoing concern about sleep deprivation among our teens and how it is impacting their health as well as their performance in school, and would like to get some feedback and perspective from other parents.

Part of the problem is the starting time of many Bay Area high schools, and the scheduling of difficult classes first thing in the morning. Albany High starts at 7:40 am, and many of the more advanced classes which have only one section, such as math, are offered at that hour. These classes require a lot of concentration, at an hour when most teens are still waking up.

Studies have shown that teen's biological clocks shift during puberty, and not only do they need more sleep, but they naturally stay up longer and need to sleep longer. Their brains don't start functioning at peak until later in the morning, around 8:30 or 9:00 am. Sleep deprivation amongst our teens is brought on by the multitude of responsibilities they have and by their own natural sleep cycle, which may be impairing their ability of learn and retain information.

Our high school students are trying to balance their school work in multiple subjects, along with part-time jobs, practice in sports or an arts activity that often goes late into the evening. Our daughter, who is in 11th grade at Albany High, cannot get to her homework until 7 or 8 pm, and works until midnight or 1 am, because the homework load is so heavy. She is seriously tired when she gets up at 6:40 am to get to a 7:40 am class. And this tiredness is cumulative, as sleep deprivation builds up and eventually makes her sick and have to miss school.

I find this kind of scheduling and pressure unhealthy for our kids, and would welcome your comments.


Hi Eileen! I must agree with your assessment that school starting times, scheduling of difficult classes, and teen biological clocks are all in opposition to one another. My teen (age 17, would be a senior this year) suffered from it exactly as you describe. The early start hour is silly, given that time is available after school, when many teens are just hanging out and getting into trouble (I know she was!). For those who complain that extracurricular activities must happen then, my question is why? What reason can be given not to put at least some of the extracurricular activities into the morning slot instead? I clearly remember school starting at 9am at my HS in San Jose in the late 70's--and just as clearly remember playing in the orchestra at 8am. It was tough, and I didn't choose to do it every year. At least that way, the *academic* subjects would be taught during the time of the students' peak performance. Presumably, that's what school is about anyway, right? We seemed to do just fine starting our extracurricular activites at 3:30 or 4pm each day--why can't they do that now?

Regarding scheduling of hard classes into the morning--I have NO idea why this is done, but it's a bad idea. This happened to my daughter. Her required, difficult, math class was scheduled ONLY at 8am. She is NOT a morning person. Neither are we. The class was a disaster from the start. Despite my pleadings with both her and her counselor that she delay the class to another semester and time, she went ahead and took it. She failed, and the failure in that class caused her to lose confidence, give up, and subsequently fail in every other class, and eventually she attempted suicide over being such a failure. Rather than have this happen again, we chose to remove her from the school system altogether, and un-school her (like homeschooling, but more directed by the student). This is a radical solution, but appears to be one of the few solutions available when no one is listening to the fact that these early hours DO NOT WORK for teens.

BTW: Since she has been unschooling, she's done just fine on a schedule that has her going to sleep at midnight, and leaving for work/classes around 11 am. She's happy, productive, learning lots, and wonderful to be around. An utter contrast from her former tired, cranky, unmotivated self. Good luck convincing the powers that be to change things! Sincerely, Dawn

I agree with you that sleep deprivation in teens is a big problem that receives little acknowledgement. From a WebMD summary of the problem at http://my.webmd.com/content/article/1728.60579

Studies show that while fifth and sixth graders can be wide awake all day after about nine hours' sleep, teenagers need 10 hours to be alert all day long, says Richard D. Simon, Jr., MD, medical director of the Kathryn Severyns Dement Sleep Disorder Center in Walla Walla, WashSimon. The average teenager gets about six hours' sleep, so he's sleep-depriving himself completely, he says. Other researchers put the necessary amount of sleep for teens at about 9 hours and 15 minutes a night. ... In addition, high-school-age children appear to undergo a shift in their biological 'body clock,' which tells them when to rise and go to bed, he says: There's some evidence that teenagers' biological clock may be programmed to start turning off later at night and turn on later in morning. According to the National Sleep Foundation report, studies have shown that the typical high school student's natural bedtime is 11 p.m. or later.

So an 11pm bedtime, pretty reasonable for teens with homework and after school activities, means that your teen should be sleeping till 8:30 or 9 in the morning, which is impossible for most high schools. Allowing an hour for the teen to have a shower and eat breakfast and wait for the bus, we're looking at an arrival time 10am or so. I think what happens instead is they are forced to get up too early, fall asleep during class, walk through the day like a zombie, and try to catch up on the weekends.

I'm not too optimistic about the schools figuring this problem out in the next 20 years. After all they still think all families have a mommy at home to greet kids at 3pm every day. There are alternatives though. My son just started this year at Berkeley High Independent Study. The jury is still out on whether this change will address his academic issues. But one huge benefit of BIS is that my night owl son has been able to arrange his schedule so that he can sleep in most mornings. The combination of more sleep and more control over his schedule has really made a big difference in his day-to-day demeanor and in our relationship too. Ginger

My feeling is that we have schools organized backwards. The academics should start at 10:30 or 11:00 am and run through until 5:00pm, and all the extracurricular activities and sports should start early in the morning. That way, the kids who are not interested in those things don't have to be to school until later, when their minds and bodies are awake. In addition, for those kids who are interested in the extracurricular activities, I'm sure it's easier to do those activities rather than academics early in the morning. Martina

I have no doubt that a regular lack of sleep contributes to a myriad of vulnerabilities in young people which can cause emotional strain leading to physical illness or mental deterioration. I know for myself (a middle-aged single Mom) that sleep deprivation on an ongoing basis contributes to the aging process and certainly influences how present I can be in interpersonal communication or in basic functions such as driving and cooking. Children and adolescents (ages 10-18) are resilient, but over time a lack of sleep robs them of being present in their lives and handicaps their ability to receive and process the world around them. I would imagine continued lack of rest can impair decision-making ability and the receptivity of brain cells for learning. I have a seventh grader who is a conscientious student and has been educated through sixth grade in a Montessori environment. He is self-motivated, interested in learning, quite expressive when engaged in a conversation geared to his level, and active in sports and music. This year the time dedicated to homework (in a more conventional school setting) has probably quadrupled. My biggest questions are Does this amount of homework contribute to the education of my son? and Is the loss of sleep resulting from staying up late to finish homework detrimental to his health and upsetting a balance in life that makes for a vibrant, caring, creative, and self-reflective human being?

The patterns of discipline and study that are set in middle school are in most cases the ones that will carry students through high school and college. So teaching good study habits and time management are important skills for later in life. I also think that broadening the base of knowledge in specific subjects is also a postive achievement in middle school. HOWEVER, is there a danger that we are also teaching our children to become workaholics or something less negative do-aholics by virtue of the fact that we keep them so busy with exercises for the mind?

I question just how wise our culture is in stressing the acquisition of knowledge as a vehicle for self-fulfillment and social success without a complementary emphasis on the cultivation of wisdom. Have we not forgotten to tend to the spirit and introduce qualities and practices that are meant to open our young people to the possibility of wisdom arising from silence and quiet reflection?

I have many more questions than answers; however, this culture seems to have many more answers than questions. The problem arises when questions are no longer encouraged, discussion is had for the sake of hearing oneself and others talk, and political discourse is used to condone the righteousness of one group's values. Wisdom is concealed by efforts at pleasant social intercourse, or worse yet by efforts to establish one point of view as superior to another. I do question the wisdom of excessive homework (busywork) at a time in the world's evolution that calls for a grand leap of understanding of what it is to be an evolving human being?

I hope I stayed close enought to the topic, Eileen. I am wrestling with questions that arise from living with an emerging adolescent and the changes that come with all that, including homework and scheduling.


I would like to chime in regarding sleep deprivation among children and teens. I notice a dramatic difference in my 15 yr old son's ability to cope with school, peers, family, the world when he gets enough sleep -- which for him is 9 to 9 1/2 hours every night. So until school starts later, he is in bed no later than 10 pm, and usually by 9:30. (and if homework isn't done he has to do lots of catchup on the weekend)

I think it would be useful if there were a variety of schedules to accomodate the various internal clocks the kids (hey and teachers too) have. But don't forget -- if your kid stays up to 11 pm to do homework now when he or she is getting out of school at 2:45-- would you really be happy with him or her staying up till 1 am or later to get the same amount of work done because school didn't end until 5 pm? Maybe we are just allowing our kids to do too much (school plus sports plus jobs...)

Bedtime Rules and Wake-Up Rules

How to get teen son out of bed

Feb 2011

My son is having a real hard time getting out of bed in the morning. He goes to bed pretty early 9:30 pm or 10 pm the latest. I was told to get up early because it takes a long time for the teen to really awaken his/her senses...but is it necessary to wake him more than one hour before he is supposed to go? He had learning disabilities and attentional/focus issues and may be experiencing mild to moderate anxiety because parents recently decided to separate temporarily. He is seeing a mentor/therapist who is skilled in dealing with teens. I am using clear water misting from a water spray bottle, but he is not a plant. I turn the heat and the lights on full blast. Penny for your thoughts, recommendations, suggestions....

my eldest teen found it very hard waking up (she would sleep through alarms), so we started serving her and her sister breakfast on a tray in their beds. it felt more effective than repeatedly visiting her bedroom and asking her to wake up. it does feel indulgent, but my approach was simply to do what worked to get her feed and to school. she is now thriving at university. my girls appreciate the luxury of breakfast in bed and while you are hovering over them with the tray, they do roll over and sit up (immediately). i take pride in serving a delicious breakfast (this morning toasted bagel with peanut butter, fresh sliced strawberries and apple juice). you could also ask your son what he would like for breakfast, even taking him shopping to pick items, to encourage compliance. my youngest likes a little quite time in the morning to wake up and get ready. she sometimes reads on her bed before she needs to leave for school. good luck. judith

By FAR the best way to get my teen son going in the morning is for me to walk into his room, ask him what he wants for breakfast, make it, and bring it into his room. I swear, once he's eaten something, the beast in him is gone! Before I found this out, we had way too many shouting matching about 'GETTING UP' and out to school. And the funny thing is, he never said he was hungry! Just my experience. Happier

15-year-old secretly staying up late

March 2010

I am a single mother, and my son (15) and I have had what always seemed to be a happy home life, and done a lot of harmonious traveling together. But I've also been concerned over the years that he seemed awfully tired--as if he were oversensitive to Life or something. Recently I've been learning that for the last five years or more, he has been politely saying good night... and then spending three hours or more doing other things, until as late as 1:30 a.m.--reading, exercising and more recently, being with friends on his iPod. 1. I know these are not comparatively bad things to do, 2. I know he needs alone time and space for himself to do things separately from me. I am very active and appreciate his independence. But A. I am really shocked by the lying, and for so long, and B. I have no idea how to impress on him the need for sleep. (C. His doing all this in the adjacent room also explains my own restless sleep?) He seems to be telling me that he started lying about it out of a sense of adventure and wanting privacy, and then couldn't stop. ??? But we've talked about it very nicely and then he's lied some more. Help me get a handle on all this? Kind of Stunned About This

Okay so your son was relaxing at night doing things that teenagers normally do. Did he really have to tell you what he was doing? He wasn't breaking any laws, smoking dope, or drinking. He was just doing the typical things that teenagers do. I agree with you he should get a little more sleep but then again how much sleep do teenagers really get? When I was a kid, I was up to 1 am reading, writing, listening to the radio, etc. This was long before we had desktop computers. I don't remember telling my parents what I was up to or them asking me.

My advice is for you to let go. We can't control our kids and if we try, they will rebel and get into all sorts of acting out behavior much worse than the normal activities your son is doing. Maybe you can say gee I'm concerned you're not getting enough sleep. However, don't expect much to change.

If this is unbearable for you, I would then advise you look into getting some counseling for yourself. It's hard to let go of our kids, but it's necessary for their growth and ours. Anon

I agree with the previous poster who said that teens need a private life. I also think it's not really appropriate to have a bedtime for teens.

However, if his lack of sleep is having bad effects on his behavior then I do think you have the right and obligation to step in and help teach him to manage his time.

So if he is grouchy/rude in the am, late to school, not doing am chores, skipping after school activities, or if his grades are slipping, then on nights before school days, when you go to bed, take his phone and the power cord from the computer(s) into your bedroom! (be sure to turn off the phone so you don't get woken up...) Return them in the morning when you get up.

When the behavior improves (which may mean waiting till next report card, or you can check with teachers), give him another chance. Repeat as needed! best wishes

Bedtimes - a thing of the past with 'tweens?

Jan 2010

With our daughter now in 6th grade, it seems like all of a sudden, an enforced bedtime is no longer working. I am wondering what others do about bedtimes, enforcing it (if you do), and how these things change from elementary school to middle school. Our daughter does not handle being tired very well - she loses it easily. At the same time, she sometimes does OK when she's gone to bed later than I feel is right, so I wonder if this is one of those things that I just have to loosen up with and go with the flow. My husband believes in being flexible as long as she is able to handle things in a reasonable manner. Oh yes - she's pulling straight A's in school and doesn't stay up late watching TV/playing video games. It's reading. It's silly to get upset about her reading (I LOVE that she is a voracious reader, of course!) - I'm just concerned about her getting enough sleep and am concerned that I am making too big a deal of this. I know - pick your battles. :-) daughter is growing up

I've been through this with my 3 - now 12, 15, 17 years old. Starting middle school - if they and you can handle it, and you'll know - give them a later bedtime, say during non- school nights first (Fridays-Saturdays, provided there's nothing going on early the next day!). You can also relax your times during special occasions like holidays when there's no school. Give them anywhere from 1/2 -1 hour beyond their previous bedtime hour (this depends on what she's currently used to ). My kids still fight the 'lights out' time occasionally, and the next day admit to wishing they had more time to sleep. My 7th grader is allowed to stay up later once a week to watch Mythbusters, provided he's got his schoolwork done. Make it conditional - it needs to be cool with your expectations (schoolwork is done, grades are acceptable, no behavior issues, reasonable reasons for wanting to stay up later...). It's a time for adjustment, so don't worry about the fine- tuning you'll do. While they may think they can handle changes, you've already experienced how mercurial the results are. They still need lots of sleep, but also should be able to handle a little bit more. Remember, you are the one who can extend as well as retract those extra minutes! Norma A.

I have to chuckle, re the teen bedtimes. it seems like so many parents here just let the kids decide...I just keep thinking of how their frontal lobes aren't developed until they are 18, I think it is, and how we have to be their frontal lobes. My Middle Schooler would stay up late as well reading (I am very very strict on TV etc. here), but she isn't allowed. I tell her: you will go to bed earlier and earlier, until we find a time when you can wake up well at 7 AM to make it on time for music class. Her bedtime is quite early (8:30!!) and she complains that other kids get to stay up til midnight. Midnight????? I was eighteen I think before I regularly stayed up til midnight! New studies just came out how depression is related to not enough sleep, and they need more rest then any other age group. Letting Middle Schoolers choose their own bedtime? certainly not in my house. Call me Old Fashioned

I think 'tweens still need to have some parental control exerted over them on arbitrary things, e.g. bedtime, so you still have some control over them when they're teens. Also, while 'tweens have more sense than your average toddler, they still don't have all that much, especially when they get into power struggles with their parents.

Bedtime can and should be negotiated reasonably, recognizing their growing ability and need to decide things for themselves (i.e., avoiding a power struggle). Once a bedtime regime has been negotiated, you can feel free to encourage your kid to keep to it. John K

Our kids (now both 13 and in the 7th grade) still have an enforced bedtime of 9:00 PM. Our daughter needs 9-10 hours of sleep. Our son doesn't need as much. He occasionally gets up early and reads before the rest of us get up (we don't allow TV or video games before breakfast! :) )

They have to get up at 6:30 on weekdays to get ready for school (their middle school starts at 7:50 AM).

If they have a lot of studying to do and have an afternoon activity like sports, then sometimes they go to bed around 9:30 PM. But we limit ''media'' time (TV or video games) to 30 minutes after school, so they normally have sufficient time to study before dinner.

If they really aren't sleepy, we still have them go to bed and read for 15 minutes or so then it is lights out.

When they were younger, 8:30 was bedtime. When they are in high school, We're expecting it to go to 10:00 PM since they go to school later and will have more homework.

We don't like grumpy kids :)

How late do you let your 12-year-old stay up?

August 2003

I'm curious what other parents out there do about bedtime for 12- year olds. The particular girl in question would love to stay up late and get up late. For school days, obviously, this can't be too late, even though I think school won't start until 8:30 or 9am this year. I have problems knowing what's acceptable, because my natural rhythm is to go to bed early and get up early. I love morning, and I know that's not ''normal''. So, how late do people out there let their 12-year olds stay up on weekdays and on weekends? Help! -early bird parenting a night owl

We try to have lights out for my 12 yr old step-son at 9/9:15pm. He gets up at 7:45 or 8am to leave the house at 8:30am (school starts at 8:50am). He too would like to push his bed time later, but we realize that some of that is a pre-teen power trip. He is constantly pushing boundries. We are quite adament about getting to bed at the same time as the routine is still good for him at this age. Also, since his Dad and I have to get up early and we like to have some time w/out the kids in the evening. To help in transition into sleep mode he gets to read in bed for a half- hour or so. On the weekends he gets to stay up to 10pm at the most. Any later than that we are dealing w/ a cranky kid all day. No thanks. anon

Our soon to be 12-yr-old has a hard time falling asleep. I think he's just a night owl. He goes to bed between 10 and 10:30 weekends and weeknights. Weekends he gets to sleep in, but weekdays, he only gets 8 hours of sleep a night. We have tried getting him to bed earlier but he truly can't fall asleep until around 10:30PM. hope this helps

Everyone we have spoken with about this tells us that a pre- teen/teen's ''clock'' gets set back so that it is natural for them to go to bed later and wake up later. Unfortunately, they still need to go to school, camp etc. We let ours stay up later on Friday and Saturday nights(sometimes even to 11:30) and sleep in. That seems to tire them out a bit, and by Sunday night they are ready to fall asleep around 10:00-10:30 PM (they have to wake up at 7:30 AM). They seem to do well on this schedule, which is good, because we have never succeeeded in getting them to fall asleep earlier, even if they are in bed earlier with lights out. - parent of night owls

I have a 12 yr. old boy and on the w/e's I let him pretty much stay up and watch a couple movies we have rented. I do come out (he stays in the living room during those nights) and have to turn the DVD player/stereo/TV off after he has fallen asleep, but my husband gets up around 4 a.m. so it's not any hassle. I'd say my son goes to sleep probably around 1 a.m. This is only during the summer or on Fri. eve's. We have to get up pretty early on Sun's so Sat. eve. we limit the movie to one with the other two kids we have. It also allows my husband and I to have our own time. During school time he goes to bed no later than 9 p.m. mostly because I have 2 other kids to get up and get ready. And he can ready himself, I wake him up the last. pandm

While it will depend on homework load and any afterschool activities, in room at 9pm (to read or draw or something quiet) and lights off by 10pm should be reasonable. Adjust these times if she is having a hard time getting up in the morning or taking too long to fall asleep at night. LC

Wake-up time on weekends

May 2007

A friend with 2 teenagers told me that she doesn't let her kids sleep past 10am on the weekends - too much 'sleeping away the day' or something. I've always let my (teenage) kids sleep until they wake up on the weekends - I figure they get up early every weekday, their bodies must need the rest. But now that she mentioned it, I wondered if it's a good idea. What do you think?
wake up call?

If her schedule permits (she often has commitments), we let our 15-year-old sleep in until her body tells her she's had enough. Everyone needs recharging. The only caveat: a reasonable bedtime (11-11:30) even on weekends, so that her system doesn't go too much out of sync.

Oh for crying out loud, let your kids sleep!!! Studies from NIMH and others suggest that the school schedules of our kids, versus their natural sleep needs are so whacked out it's no wonder they can't focus in school. Let them sleep. Let them get a good night's sleep, if only on weekends. Let them do what you would do if you were relentlessly asked to perform. Just Let Them Sleep. They'll get up and they'll be healthy for it -- when they're ready.
Wish I'd been able to sleep in!