Should teens have a bed time?


Want to set a bed time for a teen? Good luck with that.

When my two teens got to high school I gave up on bed times.  I figured they were old enough to manage their time and decide how much sleep they need. Some days, I pay the price.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I thought she should set a summer bed time for her 13-year-old son. She is trying to make him go to bed by 10:30 p.m. Let’s face it; the tactics you’d use for getting a toddler to bed won’t work with a teen. They’d rather eat dirt than have mommy tuck them into bed at 8:30 p.m. Believe me, I’ve tried it.

In my house, I’ve noticed the sleep habits of teens mimic that of vampires. During the school year, my teens are tired from waking up early for school and usually go to bed at a somewhat decent hour.

But on weekends and in summer it’s a different story.  In the first week they had off for summer, before camps started, I woke up at 3 a.m. to find my kids awake and their friends in my home. Usually, if I find my kids up after midnight, I strongly urge them to consider how tired they’re going to feel the next day — something subtle like “YOU’RE GOING TO BE ONE HORRIBLE GRUMP TOMORROW!”

According to the American Sleep Disorders Association, the average teenager needs around 9.5 hours of sleep per night because hormones that are critical to growth and sexual maturation are released mostly during slumber. Yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of only 7.4 hours a night.

I’ve heard the argument that for teens having a bedtime makes them seem babyish.  If you look at a teen’s Facebook page, the chatter gets pretty heavy between 10 p.m. and midnight so I’m pretty sure most of them are revving up at that hour.

Parenting expert Jan Faull suggests setting a “bedroom time” for your teens, not a bedtime.  I like this idea — kinda like a wind down time.

She says this would be a time when they are required to be in their bedrooms each night when they can read, listen to music (at a reasonable level), or do something else they find relaxing. The exact time should be approached as a negotiation, not a mandate, she says. She warns that once you’ve all agreed to a “bedroom time” realize that you’ll most likely need to remind them nightly when it’s time to go to their rooms until they get used to the idea and go there on their own.

What are your thoughts on setting bed times for teens? Do you think setting a bedroom time would work in your home?

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