Should Your Teen Have a Set Bedtime?

Gone are the days of putting your child to bed at 8 p.m. Now, you’re lucky if your teenager falls asleep before midnight. As children grow into their teen years, it’s natural for them to stay up later and later, as biological sleep patterns shift toward later sleeping and waking time during adolescence.

A teenager asleep and wrapped in a blanket
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Because of early school start times, teens often don't get the eight to 10 hours of sleep that they ideally would. By taking whatever time your teen needs to wake up in the morning, and subtracting about nine hours, you can calculate your teen's optimal bedtime (give or take an hour).

Because the determined time seems absurd to most people, many medical professionals and school administrators debate the pros and cons of starting school later.

It’s not likely you’ll find your child crawling between the sheets as soon as the sun goes down, but you can set a bedtime and have your teen to head to bed by 10 p.m. or so by promoting good sleep habits.

The Importance of Sleep for Teens

Obviously, everyone needs a good amount of sleep per night, but the teen years are an important time to be getting that rest. Your teenager might think he’s practically an adult, but his brain isn’t fully developed yet.

Because of that, he’s more likely to make risky decisions—and that’s compounded when he’s sleep-deprived. On top of that, teens who don’t get enough sleep are at risk of depression and mood swings, as well as overeating and making poor food choices.

Should I Give My Teen a Bedtime?

Sometimes parents wonder, is it appropriate to give a teenager a definitive bedtime? While your 13-year-old may need more help going to sleep at an appropriate hour, a 17-year-old shouldn’t need as many reminders about how to take care of himself.

Rather than give an older teen a strict bedtime, educate your teen on how much sleep his growing body needs. Then, have a discussion about how he plans to get enough sleep, given the likely early hour he needs to wake up for school.

Make sure your teen knows being overtired isn’t a badge of honor. Too often, students seem to pride themselves on staying up all night to study for exams or to play video games with their friends. They often brag about only getting five hours of sleep and they seem to think depriving their bodies of rest is a sign of strength.

Keep the focus on encouraging a healthy bedtime, rather than strictly enforcing it. For some teens, the natural consequence of being overtired is enough to remind them to go to bed earlier.

For teens who still aren’t motivated to go sleep at a reasonable hour, establish rules that will motivate him to go to sleep at an earlier time. For example, tell your teen he can’t drive the car unless you’re assured he’s had plenty of sleep the previous night, since driving while tired is a common cause of teen car crashes .

Encouraging a Teen To Go To Sleep

Use these parenting strategies to encourage a healthy bedtime.

Confiscate All Electronic Devices

At 9 p.m. each night, collect smartphones, tablets, and other devices and keep them in a basket in a common area of the house (or if your teen is prone to sneaking it back, in your bedroom).

Too often, teens stay up late communicating with friends or browsing the Internet, and the light from the screens interferes with their quality of sleep. Do yourself a favor, and toss your phone in that basket, too.

Discourage Caffeine

Instead of serving soda or other caffeinated drinks, encourage your teen to drink only milk or water for dinner. Even sipping on caffeinated sports or energy drinks after school can affect a teen’s sleep.

Keep energy drinks and caffeinated sodas out of the house, and discourage your teen from drinking coffee. If she needs caffeine to get through the day, then she probably needs more sleep overall.

Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment

A bedroom should be dark and cool. Set a small light on the bed in case your teen likes to read before bed. The mattress and pillow should be comfortable. Take TVs out of bedrooms—this room should be for sleep only.

Prevent Sleeping in on the Weekends

By nature, teens are more likely to make up for lost sleep on the weekend and doze until noon or later. However, this affects their overall sleep patterns. Instead, get your teen up at a reasonable hour to keep his sleep schedule somewhat on track.

Make a Set Bedtime

Make sure your teen knows that you expect her to be in bed by 9:30 p.m. with the lights out by 10:00 (or whatever times will allow her to get the recommended sleep). While it might be impossible to enforce the lights out time if you’re already in bed yourself, telling your teen your expectation can encourage her to go to sleep.

Be a Good Role Model

If you always fall asleep on the couch while watching TV or you struggle to wake up in the morning, your teen is likely to follow suit. Show your teen that you think it's important to get adequate sleep by going to bed at a reasonable time.

A Word From Verywell

While you might not be able to control your teen’s sleep habits once she moves on to college, it’s important to set a good foundation during the teenage years. Overall, with better sleep, your teen will perform better academically and athletically and, overall, be a much happier person. 

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