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Teenager with chaotic sleep

(41 Posts)
WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 10:05:53

I've name changed, because DS knows my MN name.

DS is 17, in his final year at school (Scotland) and has always been a night owl. However his sleeping patterns have been chaotic for the last year or maybe longer. We all go to bed about 11pm, but DS sits in his chair in his room reading till all hours. Sometimes he doesn't go to sleep till 3 or 4am. Then he struggles to get up for school, doesn't have time to sit down for breakfast (breakfast is often a cereal bar eaten on the bus) When he gets home from school he's exhausted and usually sleeps from 4-6pm (I sometimes keep poking him awake, sometimes leave him.) He wakes up for dinner and starts his homework at some point in the evening. He can be doing homework till quite late, though he takes breaks to watch You tube clips etc, which prolongs the whole homework thing. It's hard to tell how much of his time is homework and how much is mucking about on the computer. He's often still doing his homework when DH and I are heading to bed.

He has a "catch-up" on sleep on Sat morning when he sleeps till lunchtime, and sometimes other day time naps over the weekend.

The school has expressed concern about him being tired in class, and he's under-achieving academically. He does no sport or anything to keep fit, because by the time he's at his most awake it's dark and the nearest fitness centre / swimming pool etc is closing.

He knows that the school, DH and I are all worried, and he doesn't like under-achieving academically, but doesn't see a need to change. Two nights ago he fell asleep reading in his chair and didn't go to bed at all - slept the whole night, fully dressed, in his chair.

How can we make him realise that he's mucking up his life by not sorting out his sleep patterns?

SecretSquirrels Tue 04-Oct-11 11:33:01

Teenagers need their sleep as much as younger children. Persuading them of that is another matter.
If he was younger I would suggest making sure he had more exercise during the day and insisting on a fixed bedtime/getting up time.
How do you do that for a 17 year old?
Could you ask him to try a different routine for a week, just to please you, and see whether he feels better for it?

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 11:37:54

Just a little thought

You don't have any concern about drug use, do you ?

Such a thing can wreck sleep patterns and make one unable to function the following day

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 11:43:57

No worries at all about smoking, drinking, drug use or unsuitable friends.

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 11:45:02

ok, I thought it worth mentioning smile

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 12:05:09

Thanks, AF, I appreciate any suggestions!

We have tried drawing up an alternative timetable for his days that involves sleeping at night, in bed, not fully clothed (!) and having more varied activities during the day, but he just agrees to get us off his back, and carries on in his own sweet way.

FWIW, when I was pregnant with him, I used to struggle to get to sleep at night because he was so active, and then I'd often feel no movement at all in the morning till after 10. Occasionally I'd be frantically poking my bump at 11am, really concerned by the lack of movement. The midwife commented then that he'd probably have the same internal clock once he was born - and he did!!

But it's now seriously impacting on his life, with him clearly tired and underachieving at school, can't look for a Saturday job because he needs Saturdays to sleep in, can't take exercise because by the time he's fully awake it's dark.

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 12:14:40

Yes, I can see how it impacts on his life

Some people just do have wonky (by mainstream ie. 9-5 working standards) body clocks, but it doesn't sound like he is helping himself

and at 17, he really isn't in a place where he can choose a lifestyle that suits him, tbh

he will at least have to attempt to conform for a while, I am afraid

when he is chooses (and is settled) in a career that takes into account his strange sleeping patterns, then he can do as he likes

I expect you have explained all this to him

We are going through problems with DD(15) atm, not related to sleeping but simply to underachieving and not knuckling under to study properly, and in fact employing every argument and derailing opportunity she possibly can (long story)

As soon as she walks through the door, all electronic equipment is removed (laptop, phone, tv etc) and then reinstated when she has satisfactorily done what is expected for that evening

then, later, it is taken away again at a time we deem fit should be reserved for sleep

she hates us, calls us prison officers and controlling, but appealing to her common sense was just not working

would something similar work for you ?

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 12:31:31

We can't really take away his computer / lap top as he uses them for homework; though if I check on him he often has a chat bar at the side and is simultaneously "doing homework" and chatting, or watching You tube clips. He spends hours and hours on "homework." He will hand over his laptop and dongle at bedtime so that he can only use his computer for word-processing after 11pm, if he's still doing "homework" then.

Yesterday, for example, he got home from school, set out his homework, then fell asleep next to it. I woke him up, he went back to sleep. I woke him up for dinner at 6pm. Apart from the time spent eating his dinner with the family, he was never more than 2ft away from his "homework" I'd like to see him having a proper break - go swimming, or something, but he's asleep when the pool is open. (We live in a rural area, so not a lot of after-dark exercise options.)

He is a voracious reader, and AFAIK, that's what he does when he should be asleep - goes into his bedroom, curls up in his armchair with a book and reads and reads.

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 12:39:22

make him bring his laptop downstairs then you can check he isn't pretending to work ?

strict lights out after a certain time with appropriately tough and (for him) punishing consequences if ignored ?

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 12:59:47

We can't enforce "lights out" though, can we? We can insist on "lights out" at 11pm, but DH and I are asleep by 11.30 and have no idea if the light goes back on then.

If one of us gets up in the night and sees his light on, then, yes, he's in trouble, but on an average night we're asleep.

Secret Squirrels, he does have a fixed getting-up time on schooldays; he has to be at the bus-stop by 8am. He always gets up, just doesn't always get up in time to have a proper breakfast.

He does have the laptop downstairs quite often; which is why I know about the side chat-bar!

I'm seriously worried that he's damaging his health; having to sleep from 4-6pm surely isn't right. We've pointed out to him that if he was working 9-5, falling asleep at 4pm wouldn't be an option!

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 13:02:07

Would a check up with the doctor reassure you ?

He could be suffering a low grade glandular fever or something

Sleeping 4-6pm isn't really normal, no

Erm ...take the lightbulbs out when you got to bed ? < gets creative >

PandaNot Tue 04-Oct-11 13:04:14

I would think it's the 4-6 nap that means he's not tired at a normal time and this is the bit that needs stopping - although I realise easier said than done!

NatashaBee Tue 04-Oct-11 13:12:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

noddyholder Tue 04-Oct-11 13:15:33

My ds is 17 and is like this I have given up and just hope as he gets older it will straighten out. Maybe have 2 weekday nights were lights out modem off no arguments and see if he gets at least a couple of good nights.

TheSecondComing Tue 04-Oct-11 13:23:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

noddyholder Tue 04-Oct-11 13:31:40

Sleeping 4-6 is if you have been up half the night! Maybe set 4-6 as homework time and lights out at midnight. Has worked here a bit but ds will sleep til all hours at teh weekend and talking to friends he is not alone.

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 13:36:40

It sounds like toddler-style sleep training may be in order

For the next week let him sleep 5-6pm then wake him and keep him awake

The week after, half hour nap only

The week after nada

he will start sleeping at night (especially of you remove the lightbulbs)

of course, this will only work if he wants to improve his life,...if he doesn't see the problem it will be harder but he isn't getting much quality of life atm is he ?

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 13:46:23

Thanks, Second Coming. Neither DH nor I have ever been good at the discipline bit, but mostly my DC have never needed much discipline. But you're right - I've slipped over from "a bit soft" to "enabling"

PandaNot, every so often I have a week of repeatedly waking him up every time he dozes off between 4-6, but he really crashes out; he falls asleep on the settee, I wake him with a cup of tea and make him get up, he moves to a different chair, falls asleep in it, I wake him and make him get up, he sits down with homework at the kitchen table, next I know he's sprawled asleep over the table, I lose my temper and start shouting, he mooches back to the settee and falls asleep there. DH gets home from work; I'm fuming; he lectures DS. Next afternoon, same thing.

noddyholder, was your DS always like this, or has it got worse?

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 13:48:26

When he sprawls over the table asleep, make him walk around the block outside, especially now it's getting colder (and fresher), that is just ridiculous

btw, did you see my suggestion re. getting him checked out by the doc ?

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 13:51:55

Cross posted with last two posts.

WorriedAboutNightOwl Tue 04-Oct-11 13:56:56

I've suggested the doctor, but he's adamant there's nothing wrong with him. However, I'm going to stop faffing about and make an appointment for him.

TheSecondComing Tue 04-Oct-11 14:02:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AnyFucker Tue 04-Oct-11 15:01:32

tsc..we are currently in the middle of a "police state lockdown"

my hair is greyer by the day

noddyholder Tue 04-Oct-11 15:11:33

He has been sleeping more since he was about 15 but the last year 16-17 he does stay up late and sleep in esp at weekends and is always in a rush for college but I think its fairly normal. The nap is an indulgence I think if my ds started doing this I would just say no and find him something to do but I think trying to police 17 yr olds is fairly pointless when it comes to sleep. Pick your fights this one isn't really worth the arguments. Let him be late a few times or miss college/school altogether and then face teh teachers!

WorriedAboutNightOwl Wed 05-Oct-11 09:32:32

I've made an appointment with the doctor for next week. Despite DS being adamant he didn't want to see a doctor, now that I've made the appointment he seems quite amenable to it.

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