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.”
6:05 AM: “JOE. YOU HAVE TO GET UP NOW.”
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!