Tired of the insolent remarks, defiant stares and angry outbursts? Believe it or not, there may be a simple fix for your grouchy teen.
Sleep is for the weak — so they say. We live in a ‘time macho’ society where our corporate culture looks favourably upon employees that work longer hours and are always plugged in and reachable. It’s really a no-brainer why our teens boast about their all-nighters and are glued to the screen 24/7.
I began to worry about the kind of impact a lack of sleep was having on my two older boys and their cognitive, mental and physical health. Could a lack of sleep be partly to blame for their erratic flashes of disrespect towards me? Let’s just say that I knew how irritable I could be when I didn’t get a proper night’s rest.
Screens and sleep
Turns out my worrying wasn’t so unwarranted. The countless hours my son was spending in front of the gaming console was directly impacting his ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Founder of the Huffington Post and professional napper, Arianna Huffington, published an insightful article not too long ago that not only detailed her own frightening wake up call but also shed light on a study that prove screens and sleep were natural enemies. It had been scientifically proven that the light from screens was obstructing my son’s natural body clock and sleep cycle.
Sleep and stress
So what? It’s only sleep, right? Wrong. I admire Arianna’s commitment to changing our attitudes towards sleep. I agree with her that it feels as though a lack of sleep has sadly become some sort of a virility symbol. Quite the opposite, actually. We need to start looking at sleep differently. Sleep isn’t just sleep. Sleep has the power to improve our careers, marriages, relationships with our children – virtually every domain of our lives.
… but sleep equally has the power to diminish us. I started to pay attention to how I felt when I didn’t get my beauty sleep. I was constantly on edge and felt absolutely awful. That’s because a lack of sleep is directly linked to stress… and what do we do when we’re feeling stressed? We lash out more often than usual. We say things we don’t mean and regret it later. That explained my son’s constant moodiness towards me. I quickly learned not to take everything so personally.
Changing the curriculum
An independent school in the UK, Hampton Court House has actually gone so far as to reduce teen stress and maximize productivity by allowing teenagers’ sleep patterns to lead the curriculum.
‘I want to wake up in my bed, not in my maths lesson.’ says 15-year old Gabriel Purcell-Davis.
Could the solution to teen grumpiness then be to start lessons later on in the day vs. the traditional 9AM start? Would this increase productivity and decrease stress amongst my teenage boys? Or would it only encourage them to stay up later in front of the screen, knowing that they didn’t have to be at school until after 1:30PM? And would ending the school day at 7PM leave them any time for physical activity?
The Power of Power Naps
Maybe there was a simpler alternative to teen grumpiness. I had already taken the necessary steps to limit screen time in my home , but what more could I do to ensure my teens were getting the necessary amount of shut eye? Arianna also advocates short naps, known as power naps — and there’s a reason they’re called that. They help to revive us. Even when my teens weren’t getting the recommended seven or eight hours of sleep, power naps would help to perk them back up so I was no longer on the receiving end of their bad moods.
I wasn’t so sure myself about HCH’s decision, but do encourage everyone to share their thoughts. What do you think about a later start time for schools? Do you encourage your kids to take power naps? Perhaps you’ve got a few of your own tricks up your sleeve to make sure your teens are catching the right amount of Zzz? Share them with us in the comments below!