How to get a teenager out of bed

January 8, 2021 8 mins read
How to get a teenager out of bed

How do you get a teenager out of bed? For many parents, this is usually achieved with great difficulty, and the struggle has become part of their daily morning routines.

Struggling to get your teen out of bed can cause you to be late for work or stuck in traffic because you couldn’t leave early enough. And your teen might be late for an exam or forget something important at home like school projects because they were rushing.

It can also lead to frustration or fights and make the entire family start the day in a negative way.

All hope is not lost. There are some strategies you can incorporate to make it easier to win the morning battle. But first, let’s do some math.

How much time do you spend trying to get a teenager out of bed?

How long does it take you to get your teenager out of bed? If it takes you 20 minutes each morning, 6 days a week (because you give yourself a break one day a week), then that is 2 hours a week spent trying to get a teenager out of bed. It adds up to 104 hours a year.

If we divide this by 24, that’s a full 4,3 days of your year spent trying to get your teenager out of bed. If you can at least halve the time to 10 minutes, you get an extra 2 days in the year to do with what you like.

How much sleep do teenagers need?

In defence of teenagers who want to sleep in, teens need 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night. You might want them to wake up at 6am, but if they only went to bed at midnight, they still need a few more hours of sleep to get their quota.

Before you focus on what time they get up, make sure they are going to bed early enough to get enough sleep.

Reasons why your teenager might struggle to get out of bed

We often accuse teens of being lazy, but there may be other reasons why they struggle to get up in the morning.

Teens are still growing and developing

Teenagers require more sleep than adults because their brains are still growing and need to process what they’ve learnt in school and life. A lot of changes occur in the brain during puberty and while transitioning from child to young adult. Some of the changes that happen in the brain at this time include:

  • Building new neural networks based on the experiences they have and the things they learn in school, during sports practise, working on their artistic skills, playing games, socialising with friends and interacting with the world.
  • Brain connections that are no longer needed are removed, and those that are more valuable are strengthened.
  • Their prefrontal cortexes are still developing and finish developing last out of all the brain regions. This makes teenagers more prone to impulsivity and risk-taking behaviour like staying up late playing games when they have a test in the morning and should go to bed instead.

Human growth hormone (HGH) is also released during sleep, which is crucial for kids and teenagers who are still developing.

Delayed circadian rhythms

Teenagers have delayed internal clocks. Their brains start releasing melatonin at a different time. Melatonin is the hormone your body requires to prepare for sleep. This means they will usually begin to feel tired and want to go to bed later than their parents.

Many teenagers will start to go to bed later and later until they only fall asleep in the morning, and their circadian rhythms are completely different than they were. The more they disrupt their sleep cycles, the more they will throw their body clocks out of sync and the harder it will be to return to a healthy sleep cycle.

They may struggle to notice when they are tired

Teenagers often struggle to notice when they are tired and sleepy, and it can take them longer to realise it is time to go to sleep. They might only feel tired around midnight while their bodies wanted to go to sleep a few hours earlier.

Teenagers will then sleep later in the mornings to compensate for the sleep they missed out on at night.

They stay up late while playing games or scrolling through social media

Staying up late watching movies or TV shows, playing games, talking to friends online, scrolling through social media and even studying can cause your teenager to fall asleep far beyond a suitable bedtime. Staring at a digital screen before bed can further disrupt your circadian rhythm.

There could be an underlying issue

It is easy to get frustrated with a teenager who does not want to get out of bed, and it may seem like they are very lazy, but excessive sleeping could be a cry for help instead of just being a sign of laziness.

  • Excessive sleeping could indicate something is wrong like depression or anxiety that needs to be addressed. Nighttime anxiety can keep you up, making it harder to wake up in the morning, and people who have depression will often sleep excessively. Sleeping a lot could be an indication that your teenager is suffering from depression.
  • Sleeping very late in the mornings could also be caused by other conditions, such as narcolepsy, insomnia and sleep apnea. Your teenager could struggle with insomnia at night and take hours to fall asleep after going to bed, which means that they will want to sleep in the mornings to catch up for the sleep lost at night.
  • If you have a teenage daughter who manages to get out of bed fairly easily during some weeks but struggles during others, remember that the menstrual cycle plays a significant role in the quality of sleep. Women and teenage girls will often feel fatigued before and during their periods, which can cause women to sleep more as they feel more tired. Pre-period insomnia is also very common.

What can you do to get your teenager out of bed?

It’s time to strategise and come up with your game plan. Here are a few things we recommend you try to get your teenager out of bed:

Practical tips and tricks

Let’s start with some practical tips and tricks.

  • Install blue light blocking apps on their phones and computer screens to reduce their blue light exposure at night. Also, encourage them to stop using their digital devices an hour before bed.
  • Encourage them to go to bed at a similar time each night so that they can get into a good circadian rhythm.
  • Get them to put their phones and alarm clocks on the other side of the room, so they have to get up to switch the alarm off.
  • Choose an alarm sound they will respond to. You can pick a sound or song they like, which will help them get up in the mornings and put them in a good mood. Perhaps choose a sound that will annoy them enough to motivate them to get up and switch it off.
  • Use a sleep calculator to help you determine the best times for your teenager to go to bed and wake up.
  • Get them to stop consuming caffeine later in the day. Many teenagers might turn to caffeinated energy drinks when they need an energy boost, but consuming it later in the day can make it harder to fall asleep at night and as a result, more challenging to wake up in the morning.
  • Give your teenager an incentive to want to wake up every morning. You can make a deal that if they wake up an appropriate time every day for a week or a month, they can get a reward. Your teenager might not focus on the health and mental performance benefits of good sleep habits and getting up before noon. Still, if there is another benefit to waking up at a reasonable time like getting a new video game or being able to go on an outing with their friends, that might be enough motivation for them to get up when you want them to.

If the problem persists and you suspect there might be an underlying medical problem, speak with your family doctor for guidance and advice on what to do.

More drastic measures to take

If all else fails, once at a point of desperation, you could take some more extreme measures beyond turning on the lights and begging them to get up:

  • Throw ice water over their heads. Barbara Carlson, Senior Academic Coordinator at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote on Quora that while growing up if she did not wake up with her alarm clock, her mom would pour a glass of ice water over her head. If you opt for this strategy, at least they will get the benefits of cold shock therapy.
  • Charge into the room while blowing a horn or blasting their least-favourite music. The Air Horn Wake Up Prank done by many content creators like @AJ3 on YouTube is not only funny, but it is also effective.
  • Connect the bed to a timer attached to a spring that will literally eject your child out the bed or a system that will start shaking the bed, so they can’t sleep. YouTuber @colinfurze has made The High Voltage Ejector Bed and the Extreme Bed Shaker for his son’s bed.

Good luck with the upcoming morning battles. Getting your teenager out of bed won’t suddenly become easy after a day or two of implementing the changes we recommend above. But for the health and wellbeing of your teenager, and for the sake of your mental sanity, don’t give up.