Let’s face it. Getting your kids out of bed in the morning can be difficult. While the sleep experts at the Alaska Sleep Clinic can’t come wake your kids up in the morning, we can give you a few tips that will help your kids sleep better and be well rested and happier in the morning.
Step 1: Set a Schedule
The first question you need to ask when trying to wake your kids up on the right side of the bed in the morning is how many hours of sleep are they getting a night? According to the National Sleep Foundation, children and teenagers need more sleep that adults. For children ages 6 to 13, it’s recommended that they get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep a night. Teens between the ages of 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night.
With that knowledge, if your teenager need to be up at 7 a.m. to get ready for school, have them go to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. to maximize the amount of sleep they get. However, getting your 16-year-old to go to bed at 9 p.m. may be a struggle. Ok, not a struggle. A full-out, knockdown, drag-out fist fight.
Our teenagers are busier than ever. They have a lot going on, with sports, clubs, band, and drama. Oh, the drama. Sometimes the only time they have to do homework, study, and complete assignments is at night. But you’re not only fighting their will to stay awake, you’re also fighting their internal biological clocks.
A recent article from UCLA Health examines the biological circadian rhythms teens experience throughout the day. Teens naturally start to tire around 11 p.m., thus making an earlier bedtime difficult to achieve. These rhythms can easily be thrown off by staying up late at night and waking up at different times. This causes teens to be sleepy when they should be wide awake. Sticking to a schedule should vastly improve your children’s sleep habits.
“People span the range of those who are very early risers to very late setters, and this is genetically determined,” says Frederick Brown, a professor of psychology at Penn State.
Calling a kid “lazy” can backfire. Over time, they might internalize the label, then use it to justify negative behaviors.Research shows that rather than laziness, difficulty waking up and getting out of bed is a result of many factors. Many of them are even genetic.
Studies show that each person’s unique biological clocks are set at birth. Genetics establishes a person’s “chronotype,” which helps determine to when their body feels up and at ’em.
This isn’t an excuse for letting kids linger in bed. Rather, it’s a reason for making a plan that works with a kid’s internal wiring.
Step 2: Establish a Routine
Establishing a sleep routine is very important for your children to follow. Plan time for them to wind down before going to bed. This could include reading a book, listening to music, talking with family, praying or mediating, or any other low-key activity.
- Study and understand your kid: Work with the reality of your kid’s disposition and habits. It’s not just their attitude – it’s who they are. As mentioned, science shows that some kids really are night owls, and some are early birds. If you know your kid needs more time to wake up, build that into the family morning routine.
- Are they getting enough sleep? Kids need much more sleep than adults (10 hours at least). View a helpful chart that shows what time your kid should go to bed based on the time they get up. Do everything you can to get them to sleep earlier and to sleep sounder. Snoring siblings, too much light, going to bed too late, a non-restful sleep environment, over-exhaustion, screen time close to bed, diet, and exercise all affect a kid’s ability to sleep. (For kids, exercise may be the strongest positive influence for sleep.) In severe cases of not getting up, your child may have a serious sleep issue, depression, deficiency or another issue such as SAD. In that case, it’s good to get them checked out. You may think your kid is getting enough sleep, but it might be low-quality sleep.
- Start with an “I love you! Good morning!” In the long run, starting the day with love and understanding sets everyone up for success.
- Build in time for simmering. In my house, we call hanging out in bed in the morning “simmering.” I love to simmer in bed for a bit before I get up – to think about the day ahead, or just letting my imagination roam. A few minutes of simmering is built into our family schedule.
- Don’t fuel the drama. Getting a kid out of bed can be incredibly frustrating. However, you lose in two ways if you fall into the habit of yelling at them to get up. First, that will make them burrow further in bed to avoid you. Then over time, you train them to ignore you.
- Wake them by singing to them. Good voice or bad, this will wake them up. Singing a kid awake is just as sweet as singing them to sleep.
- Put a radio in their room and play their favorite song while they wake up. Music is a great way to wake up.
- Play a favorite podcast or audio book to get them out of bed. They can start listening in bed, and then as they get dressed. (In the play “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the father makes the kids listen to language programs during their morning routine. Sort of the opposite approach, but it works in the play.)
- Bake something that smells delicious to get them out of bed. Bacon, waffles, and pancakes never fail.
- Do a weekly donut run. Once a week or so I bring my kid to get a donut on the way to school. It’s a special little trip for us, and it’s one day she gets out of bed without fail.
- Put up a simple, 3 – 5 step morning checklist for your kid to follow
- Do your household chores in the AM. Vacuum, cook, whatever. Get the house going. It may not get them out of bed, but they won’t fall back asleep.
- Bring a pet in to wake them up.
- Get a Clocky. This popular device might drive you crazy, but many people claim it’s the one thing that gets them out of bed in the morning.
- Use an automated wake-up light like this one.
- Raise the temperature from 65 to 68 or higher (a smart thermostat can do that automatically.)
- Give them an alarm clock and teach them how to use it. (It will probably take several lessons before they get it.) Don’t let them hit “snooze” – that’s a bad habit to teach kids.
- Make sure your kid has everything they need in the morning set out the night before. Just like grownups, kids have an easier time taking action when they know exactly what to do next. This includes what to wear to school. Ultimately, this is something they need to do for themselves. But plan on helping them with this task for a few weeks before creating the new routine.
- If you can, put them in a room with natural light. Our bodies are tuned to wake up with natural sunlight. Even a single window can help kids wake up in the morning.
- Consider letting them have a few minutes of tech or TV time after they’re fully ready for school. Some people call it “when / then” parenting. It’s basically a bribe. Bribes have extremely limited long-term power, but I’m not ashamed to say that this trick worked wonders in my house.
- Let your kid experience the natural consequences of being late – to school and in life. In the long run, it’s best for your kid to experience the natural consequences of sleeping in. That might mean being late for school, camp, or play-dates. It might mean missing out on breakfast. It’s better for many kids to learn this lesson sooner than later, to keep you from becoming your kid’s lifelong sleep coach and master.
Use these tips and a renewed understanding of your kid’s biological clock to create new family routines. Routine is one of the most important elements to getting a kid going in the morning.
Step 3: Empowering Your Children
If this all seems impossible, or you feel it’s going to create a bigger fight than it already is or needs to be, well, that might be true. At first this may be more challenging than expected, but with consistent effort and patience, eventually your children will begin to comply, especially as they are starting to feel better due to more sleep.
According to Empowering Parents, the best thing you can do is have an honest talk with your kids about the responsibility of waking up in the morning. Help them to understand it’s their responsibility to wake up to make it to school on time. With effort on their part and coaching from you, your kids will start waking up feeling more rested and much happier.In some cases, your children may be suffering from issues that are preventing them from a peaceful sleep. Sleep experts can assess your children and discover if there is indeed something deeper that needs to be addressed. If you live in Alaska and would like to consult with a board-certified sleep specialist about your kids’ sleep habits, please click the link below.