wake up, it’s time for school



What are the most terrifying words in the English language to a teenager?  “Wake up, it’s time for school!”  

This year Christmas break is almost three weeks long, so by the time Joe finally goes back to school his circadian rhythm will be totally out of whack.  It’s like three weeks of working the night shift, staying up until 1 or 2 every night, sleeping till noon the next day.  I can hardly wait until 5:45 Monday morning when it’s time to wake him up:

5:45 AM:  “Hey Joe, it’s time to get up.”

5:50 AM: “Time to get up Joe. I mean it.”

5:55 AM:  “Hey Joe, you really need to get up now, it’s almost 6 o’clock.”

6:00 AM:  “Joe. GET UP.”


6:10 AM:  “JOE!!!!! GET UP!!!! GET UP GET UP GET UP GET UP!!!!”

And finally he’ll stumble downstairs with his hoody pulled over his head, with a wild look in his eyes like he’s been subjected to a sleep deprivation interrogation for the last eight hours.

Because as everyone knows, teenagers need a lot of sleep.  Teenagers need sleep more than babies and dogs and two-toed sloths and hibernating bears.  They need sleep, because their brains and bodies are growing really fast, and they’re processing enormous amounts of new information every day, and their prefrontal cortex is desperately trying to keep up with their shoe size.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, teenagers need about nine hours of sleep every night. I don’t know about your teens, but it’s a rare night when Joe gets nine hours. Joe can be sitting in front of the tv watching a movie, playing Temple Run and checking his fantasy football stats, when his laptop will clatter to the floor as he nods off. I know he probably falls asleep at school sometimes.  It’s not because he has narcolepsy, it’s because he’s a teenager.

Waking up is much easier if you can avoid waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle.  A simple way to do that is to calculate backwards from the desired wake up time (Learned that on The Oz Blog.) Here’s how:

1. The average sleep cycle is approximately 90 minutes long.

2. The average person has 5 sleep cycles per night.

3. Multiply 90 minutes by 5 sleep cycles per night for 450 minutes or 7.5 hours of sleep (longer if possible for a teen.)

4. Count backwards from wake up time 7.5 hours and you have a reasonable starting point for bedtime. So, ideally, a teenager who has to get up at 5:45 should go to bed around 10 PM.

It doesn’t last forever, this insatiable need for sleep.  Someday  maybe Joe will have insomnia like me. In the meantime, I hope he enjoys his weekend. Monday 5:45 is coming like a train, and it will be right on time.

How much sleep do you need to function?  Do you have teenagers in your family who sleep a lot?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

About the Author

Kathleen Caron

I'm good at finding stuff, and I love to share all my discoveries. I write about the intersection between faith, family, fellowship and food.

  • Christa Sterken

    My teens are sleeping now, at 10:30! It is a school day for us but since we got home just yesterday morning from a different time zone I am cutting them some slack. Plus, I am a wee bit envious

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Of course! Extenuating circumstances. If Joe travels to a different time zone, it’s going to take him days to recover. Fortunately, he can sleep anywhere. I hope you get some rest too, and welcome back !

  • Stephanie Green

    Happy New Year, Kathleen!! Although i read all your posts, I hope to comment more in 2014! My teen is the opposite of most – up bright and early most every day no matter what bedtime was. Weekends, vacations, school days….all the same.Different sleep issues over here, I guess :)

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Happy New Year Stephanie! I love your comments and I’m very grateful that you take the time to read my musings. Early riser–that doesn’t sound like a problem, as long as he gets enough sleep. I would love it if everyone in my family didn’t want to sleep in when we go on vacation and miss half the day :-(

  • http://www.shelleydupont.com/ Shelley DuPont

    Rant, I could, about the lack of sleep teens get. Some may hit their mattresses before midnight, but are hooked up to electronics for the duration. Then, they arrive at school unable to stay awake throughout the day. The whole vicious circle begins, again. Yes, they NEED their sleep. Their body warrants it for healing and for growth. Sorry, this turned into rant, didn’t it?

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I love your rants Shelley, rant away. When school’s in session, Joe is nearly always in bed by 10, with the possible exception of midweek football game nights. I insist on it, because sleep is such an important part of growth, recovery and healing, and as a student athlete it is essential to his regimen.

      • http://www.shelleydupont.com/ Shelley DuPont

        You’re such a good mommy. High five to you.

        • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

          You’re sweet Shelley, I love my kids but I’m a mediocre parent. By the grace of God, they are hardworking, compassionate and responsible.

  • katina Vaselopulos

    No teenagers in this house, unless they “sleep over.” But sleepoves are not about sleep but fun that could last until morning, if we let them. At their homes, they go to sleep by 10:30.
    I need 7-8 hours everyday. If I don’t get them, I cannot function! I know about the importance of sleep for everyone, but did not know is that much more important for teenagers. Thanks for sharing, Kathleen!

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Katina, I do best on 8 hours also, and I’ve just become aware of how important it is to try to finish your sleep cycles. I’ve noticed that when my alarm goes off when I’m in a very deep sleep, I am exhausted the whole day. And I definitely don’t feel guilty about sleeping.

  • http://www.karentrina.com/ Karen Childress

    I definitely need 8+ hours of sleep. My teenagers also need their sleep. I have never understood why they go to bed so late when they need so much sleep. Shouldn’t they go to bed earlier? Like a baby? Also, if the story above is true, I need to tell you, STOP BEING HIS ALARM CLOCK. (hmm, sorry, I am a little bossy, too) But, seriously, in your quest to raise an independent person, he needs to be responsible for getting up on time by himself. Warn him that you are not going to wake him up anymore, that he will have to be responsible to get up in time to get to school on time. He will most likely only ‘fail’ once before he believes you. It is much better that he learn that discipline now and not when he has a job or 8:00am college class. If you want to ease him into it, you could turn on his light at 6:15 or tell him the time- but only a few times (don’t make it a habit). So, Monday morning, say to yourself, “I am not Joe’s alarm clock.”

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      All true! All true! Ok Karen, I will go out tomorrow and buy him an alarm clock the size of a dinner plate with a very loud clanging bell. (^^^^^^^ Listen to this lady friends, she knows what she’s talking about.) Funny story though, James (older bro) is on an Army ROTC scholarship and has to be at p.t. every morning at 5AM, at least a mile from where he lives. One time, he proudly told me, “Guess what! I woke up at 4:50 and I still got to p.t. on time!” Oh yes, he loves his sleep too.

      • http://www.karentrina.com/ Karen Childress

        Good for you. I would love to hear how it goes.

        • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

          Oh no, I’m on the hook now. Joe has a 6AM wrestling tourney tomorrow am, he’s going to wake himself up with his phone.

  • kathunsworth

    Kathleen I enjoyed this so much written so well and made me laugh. I get by on about six hours some nights, Naughty I know I have a child who has trouble going to sleep and I recall a sister saying to me once you have children you never sleep soundly again lol

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Hi Kath, I can do six hours for a few nights running, then it starts to catch up with me. I really need 7-8 to feel rested. I think your sister is right about that, at least not until they leave the house, out of sight, out of mind ;-)

  • http://www.joanhallwrites.com/ Joan

    I still do best on 7-8 hours of sleep per night. I’m an early bird – even this week while on vacation, I woke up around the usual time. However, when I was a teenager, it took a lot more sleep for me. It was nothing for me to sleep until 9:30 or 10 when I wasn’t in school. Can’t do that anymore (unless I stay awake until 3:00 in the morning!)

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I’m not really a morning person. But I’m not really a night person either. It I don’t set an alarm, I wake up about 7AM, whether I’m at home or on vacation.

  • Janelle

    Love it. Monday morning is coming like a train for all of us in the Ross home. We’ve been staying up late and sleeping in and eating breakfast for lunch for too long!

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      Janelle, I thought if you lived on a farm you had to get up really early to take care of the animals every day, no sleeping in ever. I thought about you today because we’re really suffering at 23 degrees and I see that your temps are well below freezing.

      • Janelle

        We’ve been making the poor animals wait a bit longer than normal for their breakfasts. We’re calling it brunch:) yes, it’s very cold!

        • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

          You are hardy people! I’m going to quit my whining about the cold. I need to toughen up. Do you have milk cows?

  • Teresa Richardson

    I need 7-8 hours of sleep; this is becoming difficult as I work 12 hours a day. I’m finding it hard to plan sleep, cooking, and taking care of the dog

    • http://kathleencaron.com/ Kathleen Caron

      I do too Teresa, and I also find it hard to do. Especially because I usually get a burst of creativity at about 10PM. But I really do believe that sleep is a critical part of your health regimen. I hope you get a nice long sleep tonight!

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    I don’t wake up with an alarm. My body wakes me after about 7-8 hours of sleep. Hope Joe made an easy transition. And I also hope you didn’t smirk too much.