Raising Teenagers

The Annual Teen Summer Sleep-In…Maybe Not So “Natural” After All

I remember it well.  Being at my cousins’ house one summer when I was a kid and staying up until 2 a.m. for the first time, then sleeping until at least 10 the next morning. Amazing! I felt so grown up. I was 9 or 10 and my cousins were both teens.  It was an early taste of what would be a common occurrence when I became a teen—sleeping late in the summer.  Which is why I haven’t nagged (well, not too much) when my own teenager “sleeps in”.

 

I’ve heard that it’s natural and has something to do with a teen’s different body clock…but, as summer drags on, it’s starting to get on my nerves…

 

Since teens are gone a lot in the evenings, doing activities (in her case, theatre) or hanging out with their friends, and away from home other parts of the day at the movies, summer camps, shopping, volunteer work, jobs, etc., and if they also sleep in, that pretty much fills up the day—rendering them useless for cleaning their rooms, doing laundry, etc.  Andy and I always hope we can all get a lot done around the house on Saturday, especially if it’s been a busy week—but on weekends, teen “awakening” seems to be getting later and later…let’s see…today she got up at the bright and sunny time of 12:30 p.m…and yes, I’ve already told her that she’s not going out tonight unless she gets some tasks done.  But gee, think what could be done if she had a whole day vs. just an afternoon…

So, it’s interesting that as I ponder this phenomenon, I came across the following news item the Internet while doing an unrelated search: “Modern adolescents spend too much time indoors and a lack of natural light, particularly in the morning, knocks their body clocks out of kilter, according to a new study” read the article from the British “Telegraph”.  “The result is they feel less sleepy at night, delay going to bed and are then more tired the next day.”  Ah- hah! And this might make them sleep later in the summer, when they don’t have to be at school.

“As teenagers spend more time indoors, they miss out on essential morning light needed to stimulate the body’s 24-hour biological system, which regulates the sleep/wake cycle,” said Mariana Figueiro, from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Centre, in New York state, who led the study. “These morning-light-deprived teenagers are going to bed later, getting less sleep and possibly underperforming on tests.”

Exposure to light in the morning is crucial to the teenager’s natural body clock, she and her team believe.   The article goes on to say that schools need to be designed to let in more natural light.  That’s great advice for new schools, but I don’t see ours doing an expensive “retrofit”.  And with the Texas heat, humidity, and allergens, outdoor classrooms aren’t a great option, either.  Sounds like this might be another argument in favor of later start times for jr. highs and high schools…

But what to do about the summer?  I’m sure my husband would love to have some morning help in the yard, if he could just get her out of bed.  Or, I could always go in and raise the shades in my teen’s room when the sun comes up…but I think that would be akin to waking a sleeping tiger…

I will definitely get to see if this “morning light theory” works once school starts in a couple weeks.  Because soon after, morning drill team practices begin (the ones last week were in the afternoon), and for the first time this year, some of them will be outdoors!  I feel another science fair experiment coming on…