How to get your teenager’s sleep back on track before school starts

Between 5 and 10 percent of teens have delayed sleep phase syndrome.

It’s noon and your teenager is just waking up. To many parents, this is a familiar sign of the carefree days of summer. Unfortunately, as the start of a new school year approaches, many parents wonder how their teens will be able to wake up in time to catch the bus.

Some teens are hard wired to fall asleep later. Sometimes, we refer to these teens as “night owls.” Of course, staying awake late into the night can lead to sleeping all morning.

As teenagers go through puberty, there can be a natural shift in the sleep pattern that makes teenagers not feel sleepy until later in the night. This natural change in the sleep schedule can be magnified when teens spend their summer doing late-night activities, such as staying out with friends or watching late-night movies. Between 5 and 10 percent of teens have delayed sleep phase syndrome, which means they have a later bedtime and wake time, daytime sleepiness, and behavioral problems or academic struggles.

Get a good start to the new school year

There’s still time to get your child’s sleep back on track in time for the first day of school. Here’s how to do it:

  • Be firm about a consistent bedtime and wake time, starting at least two weeks before school starts.
  • Turn off all electronics, including TV and cellphones 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Gradually shift the bedtime and wake time by 15 minutes every day until your teen reaches the desired bedtime and wake time for school days.
  • Don’t forget that teenagers need 9 hours of sleep per night.

If you follow these simple steps, your teen will be off to a good start to the new school year. If your child continues to struggle with falling asleep or you are concerned that they may have delayed sleep phase syndrome, talk to your child’s primary care doctor to see if a referral to the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is needed.

Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC– Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, pediatric nurse practitioner, Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

The Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the only sleep center in the state dedicated solely to the care of children and teens. The center has two locations (Milwaukee and New Berlin) both accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by four board-certified pediatric sleep specialists.

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