Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Back to school for tired teens January 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:25 AM
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JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT the celebrating had ended, along comes today, Festival of Sleep Day.

I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some extra sleep. I never get enough. I blame that on aging and the necessity to get up nightly to pee, which disrupts my sleep.

But I don’t want to make me and my sleep issues the focus of this post. Rather, I want to highlight the topic of teens and sleep.

I made some interesting observations during the holiday break, when my 16-year-old son didn’t have to get up early and out the door to school. He was pleasant, actually pleasant. No crabbiness, for the most part. No disagreeable personality, for the most part. And, he willingly assisted with household tasks without resistance and complaining.

I liked, really, really liked, the teen who has lived here for the past 10 days or so. (That’s not to say I don’t like/love my boy. I do. But those of you who are parents of teens will understand exactly what I mean.)

So when this morning arrived and my son had to roll out of bed for his first day back at classes, I wondered which boy would greet me. It was the tired, I’m-not-happy-to-be-awake-this-early son. No surprise there given my high school junior stayed up late last night doing homework, although he said, “Not that late, mother.” I know what that means.

Let’s just say that he left his homework until Sunday, despite my strong, very strong, suggestion that he work on it earlier in the week. I’m going to derail again here and ask, “Why do teachers assign homework over holiday break?” Honestly, are they working on work when they’re on vacation? Maybe. My guess would be most likely not.

ANYWAY, BACK TO THAT SLEEP TOPIC. To my son’s credit, he slept in only until 10 every morning of break except for the first day and the last two days. Typically, he would slumber as late as he wished, which would be until about noon. But this time, this vacation, he set his alarm for 10 each morning and I give him credit for that self-discipline.

His dad and I have, for a long time, encouraged him not to sleep in so late, especially on weekends, because that just throws off his whole sleep cycle. He never understood that, up until now.

Based on my teen’s mood and sleep pattern, I’m convinced that, for him at least, starting school at about 9/9:30 a.m. would be a better physical and psychological fit. I’ve read and heard repeatedly that teens would do better with that later school day start. I can’t cite those sources right off the top of my head, but if you research the topic, you’ll find the studies to back up that statement. (Or just come and live at my house for awhile.)

I’m not holding my breath waiting for a change in high school start times locally. I don’t think that will happen, and certainly not in the next 1 ½ years, when my 16-year-old would benefit.

Once my son is off to college, I expect he won’t take too many 8 a.m. classes. But that’s OK. Then he can adjust his schedule to his natural sleep patterns and needs. Even without the teenage factor, he’s more of a night person, than a morning person.

That brings me full circle back to today and the Festival of Sleep Day celebration. I have no idea where this fest originated and had not heard of it until yesterday. But I think I’ll celebrate this afternoon by, maybe, taking a little nap.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling