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Nocturnal Teens May Be a Product of Biology

My teen stays up all night and sleeps all day, but she's in for a wake-up call when school starts.

I’m convinced that my 14-year-old daughter is a bat.

A DNA test might prove my theory, but based on sheer observation, science isn’t necessary to convince me. 

It’s 10 p.m., and the house is winding down for the night – everyone except the bat. She scurries around in her cave generating clatter to warn that her “day” is just about to begin. 

Clanking noises and the sounds of furniture sliding across her bedroom floor echo into the hallway as she has a sudden burst of energy to rearrange her space. 

Her door suddenly flies open, banging against freshly painted walls, and she makes her debut into the hallway. It walks, it talks, and it’s hungry. “What’s for dinner?!” she bellows.

My daughter literally stays up all night, and just when dawn is breaking, she retreats for an all-day slumberfest.

It drives me insane knowing that she’s missing out on beautiful summer days. If sunlight washed across her fair skin, “poof!” She would turn into sparkly glitter.

And she’s not alone. All of her bat friends do this, too. I know because most of them are at my house throughout the summer. This throws all eating habits off, too. I go to bed with a full refrigerator and pantry and wake up to nearly empty shelves and a pile of dirty plates and glasses.

You may think this is just a summer phase, but it’s not. My daughter maintains her nocturnal habits even during the school year, but with the exception that she may actually attempt to go to bed around 3 a.m. Because her middle school didn’t begin until late morning, she seemed to acquire adequate sleep.

Do I condone this? No, I don’t. However, I’m not about to play sleep referee all night long when I have to get up for work in the morning. 

She is in for a literal wake-up call this coming school year; high school begins before I’m usually even out of the shower. This bat is going to have to go through some extreme evolutionary changes within the next few weeks to prepare for her new schedule.

So how much sleep do your kids really need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers (ages 3-5) need approximately 11-13 hours of sleep.  School-age children (ages 5-10) need about 10-11 hours, and teens (ages 10-17) need about 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep.

But why does my teen sleep so much more than these recommendations?

It’s important to understand that these suggestions are merely guidelines. Each person’s sleeping needs are individual and there are numerous factors that can affect how much rest our body needs. 

Teens are going through a lot of developmental and psychological changes (stress), and consequently require more body resources than adults. Their hormone levels are constantly fluctuating, too. Many teens are quite physically active, which also requires more rest.  

So just when you think that your kid has turned into a restless vampire, there is a biological reason they may be sleeping so much.

Teens are of a different species and wired differently from the rest of us. A teen’s internal clock can be in a different time zone. Even if they attempt to go to bed at a reasonable hour, chances are they won’t be able to fall asleep until much later. Pair that with an early wake-up call, and it’s no wonder our little bats are seriously grumpy and exhausted in the morning.

So be gentle, but encourage your teen try to wind down at a reasonable time. Dimming lights and taking a warm bath or shower can help your teen relax.

But if you still hear them up and about late at night, rest assured that they will eventually grow out of their bat habits and join the rest of the waking world in due time.

Is your family ready for the start of the school year? Double-check school start times and more in our .

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