Why “sleeping in” on weekends isn’t good for teens
Posted By Dennis Rosen, M.D. On January 11, 2013
After getting too little sleep Monday through Friday, many teens try to catch up on weekends, sometimes straggling out of bed after noon. While they may feel like they are doing their bodies a favor, they actually aren’t.
A whopping 80% of teens sleep fewer than the recommended nine hours per night, especially during the school week. Staying up late in the evening to finish school work, take part in extracurricular activities, and spend time with friends and family means they often struggle to wake up on time for school. A few days of this can build up a significant sleep deficit.
Sleeping late on Saturday and Sunday may fill that deficit, but it creates a bigger problem. It allows your teen’s inner clock to further drift away from the external clock, worsening the shift begun by delaying bedtime on school nights. The result: the circadian sleep is thrown out of whack, which makes it much more difficult to get up at the usual wake time.
In effect, by sleeping late on Saturday and Sunday, your teen is suffering from the equivalent of a five-hour jet lag when it’s time to get up on Monday morning. The alarm clock may be saying 6:00 am, but his or her inner clock is reading 1:00 am. This will make it much harder for your teen to concentrate and take in anything at school. When this becomes a regular pattern, it can also have a significant effect on mood.
The greater your child’s tendency to shift her or his inner clock, the stricter you should be about enforcing something close to the weekday schedule on weekends. Sleeping in more than an hour beyond the usual wake up time is asking for trouble when Monday comes around again.
Here are some things you can do to help your teen wake up and get out of bed at a reasonable hour on weekends and so avoid resetting his or her inner clock:
To learn more about how you can help your child get a better night’s sleep, check out The Harvard Medical School Guide to Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids. This new ebook has just been published by Harvard Health Publications and Rosetta.
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