School’s out for summer, which changes teenage sleep patterns. For many teenagers, summer means staying up late and sleeping in.
And to some extent that’s appropriate, says Sasha Carr, Ph.D., a certified sleep consultant with the Family Sleep Institute and founder of Off to Dreamland.
“So many teenagers are sleep deprived because school starts so early,” explains Carr. “So during the summer, it makes perfect sense for teenagers to stay up later, sleep in more and have a schedule that is more suited to them biologically.”
But that doesn’t mean all bets are off.
“Yes, loosen the schedule and allow everything to go later, but not crazy later,” advises Carr. “Not 2 a.m. in the morning.”
Here are Carr’s tips for summer, teens. and sleep.
Suggested Teenage Sleep Pattern for Summer:
1. Later Bed Time
Adjust the time your teenager heads to bed, but not by more than 90 minutes to two hours. “You’re saying, ‘I recognize it’s summer and you can take it easy and stay up a little later and get up a little later,’” says Carr. “But if your teenager gets used to sleeping a lot later and getting up a lot later, they will be so miserable in the fall.” Also, if your teenager has to be up early, then take that into account when deciding when it’s lights out.
2. Limit Screen Time
Remember that the light emitted by electronic devices inhibits the secretion of melatonin, which is the chemical that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. This interferes with our ability to get to sleep. It’s important for everyone to stop using electronics 30 to 45 minutes before retiring—and to keep electronics out of the bedroom. “Have a household rule about parents and teenagers powering down at a certain time,” recommends Carr. “If it’s 9 p.m. during the school year, then make it 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. during the summer.”
3. Transition to School Schedule
Plan now for the last two-to-three weeks of summer to include activities that get teenagers up and out in the morning. This will help ease the transition back to more of a school-like schedule, says Carr. “Try scheduling something at the end of the summer. Then it’s built in and you’re not having to impose it yourself. It could be a sports camp or volunteer activity. It could even be just a family vacation that involves a lot of activities in the morning.”