Sleeping habits of teens, worse than babies?


Benjamin Villalpando just wants to sleep, but not during normal sleeping hours. That’s a teenager for you. Photo by Nicole Villalpando

We’re waging a war in my house to get my 12-year-old and my almost 15-year-old to go to sleep at night. We haven’t waged such a war since they were babies and toddlers.

We really thought that when they went to their rooms for the night, they were sleeping. Well, they were in bed… but playing on their phones, playing on the computer, reading manga, watching episodes of “Game of Thrones” and “South Park,” potentially looking up porn — doing everything but sleeping.

We, as 40-something parents, were asleep, because we are tired people. We get up early to wake these teens up, get them to school and get us to work, get them from school, remind them to do homework, feed them, do laundry, clean up the garbage dump we call our house, and deal with a crazy 5-month-old puppy who bites more than a zombie.

Last week, after reading Leonard Sax’s new book “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt our Kids when We Treat them Like Grown-Ups” and interviewing him, I was reminded about how important sleep really is for kids.

And I was reminded of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s policy on screen time: 

No more than two hours a day of entertainment screen time for all screens — tablets, smartphones, TVs, computers, gaming systems — and no screen time for children younger than 2. Establish screen-free zones in the house: in kids’ bedrooms and at the dinner table.

I also have read many books about teens and one of the constant themes is teens need more sleep than adults and they don’t want to sleep when normal people sleep.

How much sleep do babies, children and teens really need?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this handy chart:

Newborns 16–18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11–12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teens 9–10 hours a day
Adults (including the elderly) 7–8 hours a day

I just wish there was a service like Tamiko Kelly’s Sleep Well that could help my teens get to sleep like she does for toddlers and babies.

For now, we are removing from their bedrooms all electronics including computers, game players and phones as well as the current books they are reading and checking up on them to make sure that they are asleep by 10 p.m., hoping for 9 p.m.

It’s just like those toddler days when they tried to get out of their beds or we caught them playing with their toys at 2 a.m. Surely, we won’t be still doing this when they are in their 20s, right?

Author: Nicole Villalpando

Nicole Villalpando writes about families in the Raising Austin blog and the Raising Austin column on Saturdays. She also offers a weekly and monthly family calendar at She tweets at @raisingaustin.

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