Back to School:  When Your Teen Can’t Wake Up for School 

It is normal for the transition back to school to be a rough adjustment for parents and teens, alike. In the beginning, getting kids up at the school day wake up time can be a challenge. Normally, however, teens adjust to their new schedule after a few weeks. 

Some kids have more prolonged and serious difficulties with the early school start time, and parents are at a loss for what to do. Your teen might need additional assistance if you notice that…

  • Your teen can’t wake up with multiple alarms or other attempts to wake them.
  • You get to work late because you are spending extra time waking your teen.
  • Attempting to get your teen to go to bed and wake up at an appropriate time on school days turns into a battle that negatively affects relationships within the family.
  • On weekends, holidays, and summer break (or any time your teen can follow their own natural sleep schedule), your teen develops extremely late bed and wake times.
  • Your teen can’t stay awake for their classes.
  • Your teen’s school performance deteriorates.
  • Your teen must take a long nap after returning from school.
  • Your teen had these problems last year, and the problems persisted throughout the year.
  • Your family tried to implement “back to school” and “sleep hygiene” strategies in the past, with little success.

These signs can indicate that your teen may have a diagnosable sleep disorder where their biological sleep timing is out of sync with the earlier school schedule. Your family does not have to struggle on its own.  Consider consulting with the following professionals for assistance…

  • Your teen’s pediatrician: To assess your teen’s overall health and plan next steps.
  • A behavioral sleep medicine specialist: Who can work with your teen to shift their sleep schedule earlier.
  • A school counselor: To discuss ways to structure the school day to meet the needs of your child.
  • A mental health professional: Who has expertise in working with teens if your teen appears to have depression, anxiety, or other issues related to school adjustment.

It is normal for most teens to shift to more of a “night owl” sleep schedule during adolescence. If your child’s problems are prolonged and create negative consequences for them and the family, there is help available.

To find a behavioral sleep medicine provider near you, visit: SBSM Directory

For more back to school tips, visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Back to School Tips

For information about advocating for later school start times, check out the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine’s blog, “Mind, Body Sleep: Later School Start Times

Back to School:  Helping Children Adjust to the School Sleep Schedule 

Behavioral Sleep Medicine specialist, Dr. Yishan Xu recently interviewed Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg from the Yale School of Medicine about ways to help children adjust to the earlier sleep schedule.  Dr. Schneeberg offered the following tips:

Firstly, about one month before school starts, parents could start setting a rising time for their children in the morning, then move it back 15min each time, until the final rising time aligns with their children’s’ school start time. Parents can consider these 4 key factors to help their children and teens wake up in the morning:

  • Physical activities
  • Natural sunlight
  • Food
  • Reward system (especially for the teenagers)

Secondly, while the rising time is being shifted, bedtime will be shifted as well. Parents could build a “bedtime basket” together with their children, adding something not too exciting nor boring into the basket as bedtime routines, so children can sooth and entertain themselves on bed till they feel drowsy.

Thirdly, for teenagers, parents are encouraged to set boundaries around electronic device usage at bedtime.

See the full interview below