The debate is still out on the best time for teenagers to wake up in the morning, and though studies do link later waking times with more robust academic performance, it’s not an option for most of us. So we must ensure they’re up and ready for school.
The new school year is starting, and things need to change if you don’t want a repeat of last year. Getting teenagers up and out of bed has always been a challenge, but with a few tips, maybe you could make this year your best.
California is the first state to issue a statewide mandate for schools to push start times to 8.30 am. But if you live outside the golden state, your kids will still need to get up early while maintaining enough sleep.
This three-pronged approach will turn your little night owls into sprightly morning larks.
- Optimize going to bed
- Give them back their responsibility
- Optimize waking up
Master the Art of Going to Sleep
Get Them to Bed Earlier
The deciding factor of wake time is the time you go to bed. It’s the same for teens; if they stay up late playing video games, reading, or talking with friends online, they will naturally want to sleep in later. So getting to be early enough and having them fall asleep earlier is usually the key. The CDC recommends that high school students sleep 8-10 hours each night.
This means that if your high schooler needs to wake up at 6.30 am, they need to go to bed at 9.00 pm to get 9 hours of sleep (assuming it takes them 30 minutes to fall asleep.)
How do we get teenagers to go to bed earlier?
- Tire them out
A sports club or physical activity after school that leaves them exhausted is perfect.
- Eat dinner earlier
Nutritionists recommend waiting at least three hours to sleep after eating to reduce insomnia.
- Adjust bedtime back 15 minutes every few days
Circadian rhythms play an important role in what time we naturally fall asleep, so any drastic or sudden changes will be challenging. So instead, adjust your evening routines back by 15 minutes every few days until you arrive at your preferred time.
- Mandate no screens after 7 pm
They will sleep earlier if they can’t go online or play video games.
Improve Their Sleep Quality
Although sleep duration is important, we can’t neglect quality sleep either. Quality sleep is a must if you want to wake up early and not feel tired.
These tips will help improve the quality of your children’s sleep. If you can get them on board to wake up early, you won’t need to enforce these rules. Instead, you can explain to them and help them make their own good decisions.
- No lights on
Sensors in the skin think light means daytime; they tell the brain to wake up when light touches them.
- No listening to music in bed
While sleeping, noise keeps the brain from entering deep sleep and stops you from falling asleep.
- No late-night snacks
The brain’s sleep processes need the energy used for digestion.
- No screens
blue light from screens has also been shown to affect sleep negatively by reducing melatonin production.
Give Them a Reason to Get Up
Why is it that on Christmas day, birthdays, or other special events, even the sleepiest teen can emerge from their nest early without feeling groggy? It’s the excitement, the anticipation because they look forward to those days.
Do you remember high school? It was hardly a joy to go in every morning. So is it possible to make a teen’s morning more filled with meaning? There are many benefits to waking up early, including getting more done; you need to find one important to your kids.
Connect it to a Passion
I wasn’t a morning person when I was a teenager, but after my kung fu teacher moved into a place close by, I woke up early every morning and cycled to a nearby field to practice tai chi with him. It was the only thing that would get me up. I felt a sense of responsibility, knowing that my teacher would be expecting me.
So build on a passion your teen already shows interest in; it might be a foreign language, a sport, or a musical instrument. Can you find an early morning online lesson so they would be willing to wake up?
Connect it to a Friend
Teens are hormonal creatures, which makes them competitive and crave the latest fashion accessory or tech addon. Using these two characteristics, you can create a good reason for them to get up in the morning. Is this any different than offering them a reward for waking up? Not really, but it does work better.
Pit your child against one of their friends, create a group chat, telling them whoever messages first thing in the morning gets the point. Attach a point value to whatever reward they want. Of course, you’ll need to get the friend’s parents to agree.
Connect it to a Responsibility
Why is it that in the not-so-distant past, teenagers would get up before dawn to work in dingy factories or down coal mines, and yet now they are barely able to get out of bed to sit at the back of an air-conditioned classroom? The answer? Responsibility.
Ask yourself who is responsible for getting your teenager up in the morning; if it’s not them, or they believe it’s not, it’s a problem.
Here are the best ideas for handing responsibility back to your child to wake themselves up.
- An early morning job
Paper routes may be things of the past, but there are other early morning jobs your high schoolers could do. For example, gardening, dog walking, and snow clearing are easy to set up with a neighbor.
Getting to school early to tutor a younger kid is an excellent way to teach your child responsibility and get them out of bed earlier.
- School duties
It may be running for the school council, working for the school paper, or being a school librarian; these responsibilities are precisely what a child needs to motivate them to get up in the mornings.
Get Them On Board
For these responsibilities to work, you need to get your child on board; they have to want to do it. Once they have found a passion, interest, or responsibility that they want to take up, you need to stop waking them up and instead offer them the tools to wake themselves up.
Talk to them about the benefits of waking up early and how it can help them achieve what they want.
Optimize the Early Morning Wake Up With These Tools
One of the first steps of handing responsibility over to your child is to stop waking them up in the morning. This means they need to choose an alarm if they don’t already have one and decide a time to rise early. Resist the urge to be a safety net for them; if they oversleep, they must suffer the consequences of being late.
At first, this will be tough, but you are teaching them to be responsible for themselves; it may mean a few bumps in the road, but they will adapt once they realize they’re on their own. An alarm app with no snooze button is a great first step.
There are many alarm apps to choose from, each with its method for getting you up in the morning. Here are three excellent choices:
- Terminightor – Only on Android. Pair this app with an NFT tag, then the only way to turn the alarm off is by connecting it with the tag, which you can hide anywhere.
- Alarmy – Complete missions to turn off this alarm; it will force you to think and get you up on time.
- Progressive Alarm Clock – Available only on iOS, this alarm is perfect if you don’t like to be yanked from your sleep too suddenly.
When light touches our skin, sensors tell the brain that it’s daytime which encourages the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This injection of stress in the morning is the juice you need to wake up. But if you don’t get much sunlight on your skin in the morning, you’re missing out on nature’s caffeine.
- Leave the curtains open.
The easiest option is to sleep with the curtains open; when the sun comes up, the natural light will fill the room and be the perfect gradual wake-up call.
- Put the curtains on a timer.
Alternatively, you can put the curtains on a timer, and they’ll get their morning dose of sunlight when they choose.
Anyone with one of those traditional alarm clocks with two bells on the top will know that waking up to that sound is not a pleasant experience. But apps now allow you to wake up to music or different sounds of your choice. You can wake up to the sound of the jungle, light rain or thunderstorms, a motivational speaker like David Goggins or Jocko Willink, or even yourself.
Most alarms will let you gradually fade in the alarm sounds, so it doesn’t jerk you from your sleep.
My preferred way to be woken up is with my vibrating wristband. I use a FitBit, but there are many others on the market. Set a time for your silent alarm on the app on your phone; it will gently vibrate you awake in the morning. A device like this will also track your sleep over time so you can see duration or sleep quality problems and work on them individually.
Like most things in life, waking up earlier is a journey full of ups and downs, but you now have the tools to show your children how to make the most of their mornings.