In case you didn’t know, teenagers have a super power. Adults wake up at a reasonable hour to take care of things around the house, go to work, or engage in other responsibilities. Teens, on the other hand, have the impressive ability to sleep well past noon.
Some parents let their children get a few extra hours of sleep on weekends or summer vacation, albeit begrudgingly. Other parents, however, are less inclined to let their teens sleep in. For some it’s a matter of principle. For others it’s a concern about sleeping habits. Either way, some parents remain adamant that their children wake up early.
But what’s the right thing to do? If your child chooses to go to bed at 3 a.m., is it better to wake him up early or should you let your teen sleep in?
Sleep is important.
There’s no doubt that sleep is essential to good health, and a lack of sleep has been shown to have a negative effect on a person’s health.
Insufficient sleep among high school students has been linked to an increased risk of vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and occupational injuries. A recent CDC study examined the correlation between the amount of sleep high school students received and their risk for accidental injury
The study determined that teens who slept less than 7 hours were more likely to engage in risky behaviors than teens who slept for more than 9 hours. These behaviors included things like riding a bicycle without a helmet, not using a seat belt in a vehicle, riding with a driver who has been drink, driving after drinking, and texting while driving. These behaviors are considered dangerous, and could lead to injury or even death.
Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among teens. Two-thirds of these deaths are related to traffic accidents. The study also mentions that sleepiness doesn’t just increase risky behavior. It also increases the risk of accidents themselves. Excessive sleepiness increases the risk of traffic accidents by slowing reaction time, impairing the ability to pay attention, and causing the driver to fall asleep.
Should you let your teen sleep in?
Of course, this research isn’t about the importance of sleeping in. The study merely reiterates the importance of getting adequate sleep.
Many people underappreciate the importance of sleep. Adequate sleep is necessary for good health, and can reduce the likelihood of risky behaviors in both teens and adults. 9 hours of sleep is the magic number for teens. It’s difficult for students to hit this mark during the school year, so it could be a good idea to let your teen catch up on sleep this summer.
But it’s not quite that simple.
For one thing, sleeping in every day can mean your teen loses out on family events or fails to contribute to family chores. You may feel strongly about church attendance or worry about the slothful example your teen provides for younger kids. The activities that keep kids up past midnight might not be the activities you want your teen to participate in.
It’s worth having a talk with your teenager and working out a compromise. Express your concerns and agree to a schedule that is acceptable to both of you.
There’s one more thing to keep in mind.
A nocturnal schedule in the summer makes it difficult for students to wake up on time when school starts again. Since schools don’t offer night classes, your child needs to get in the habit of going to bed and waking up early before classes resume. It can take weeks to adjust to a new sleep schedule. Give yourself ample time to make those adjustments if you decide to let your kids sleep in.