Are our teens ‘just lazy’ or do schools start too early?
Do you find yourself having to drag your teenager out of bed in the morning between the hours of 6-7am? Our teens definitely struggle to get up early without a fight, or at least not without us parents uttering anything that involves the words ‘lazy’, ‘when you have a job’, or ‘in my day…’. But what if actually this narrative that teenagers are lazy is wrong? Read on to find out what our sleep expert James thinks about all this nonsense! (Did we give it away?)
Throughout the different stages of our lives, we will of course need different amounts of sleep. And if you find yourself questioning this logic, think about babies and infants. We definitely don’t moan at them for sleeping in in the mornings, in fact, we probably find ourselves praying for it!
The Sleep Geek’s thoughts on teens’ sleep
As parents, we tend to fall into the trap of seeing our teens as being lazy when it comes to their sleeping patterns, but we shouldn’t because it’s not their fault!’ says James.
People aged between thirteen and their mid-twenties are more likely to be late sleepers, and so they just want to sleep in line with their body’s natural rhythm!
Generally, a teenager will probably fall asleep naturally after 11pm, and would be waking up somewhere around 8, and in many cases actually a bit later. This is really difficult when, for many teens, the school day starts somewhere between 8 and 8:30, a time that they should only just be getting up!
Yet, when I was in school (ahem - nearly 30 years ago - ahem), school started at 9 o’clock and lessons didn’t start until 9:30!
I have no idea why the school day has started earlier and earlier, particularly when it's so bad for our teens' health and wellbeing, which is something that as a society we worry about!
Teens’ health and poor sleep
Poor sleep makes it more difficult to stay focused on challenging tasks, so it doesn’t make sense that schools are starting so early, as this could potentially affect their performance throughout education! It will also make it harder to eat healthily and stick to a balanced diet. To add to the list, poor sleep has a significant impact on our teenager’s ability to regulate their emotions, especially as sleeping poorly means missing out on REM sleep, where we build emotional resilience.
So James, what should we be doing as parents?
There’s a couple of things that you could do. Firstly, give the teens in your life a break! Avoid calling them lazy because they’ve slept in a little later than you, they might just really need it. Show some compassion for their situation, we all know how awful it feels to be running on less sleep than our bodies need.’
Remember, waking up at 6:30am as a teenager is like me as a 42-year-old man getting up at 4.30am! I’m an early riser, and even I wouldn't like that everyday!
If you’re feeling up to it, you could even have a word with their school or college. If they start teaching at a time which seems unfair based on what you’ve just read, ask them why this is the case! And if you’re feeling extra brave, challenge anything that sounds like it might be for the benefit of everyone but the teens themselves.
A final note: Sleep is a crucial part of our health in all stages of our lives. The amount of sleep we need will probably change as our bodies change - and this happens a lot in a lifetime! So remember to be patient and compassionate with our teens, and help them where we can to make sure they are able to get the right amount of sleep that they need to feel well.