When Sleeping Was the Enemy

As I write this, my daughter sleeps. It is noon. My teenaged daughter is sleeping. She’s not home sick. She’s just home. She’s just sleeping. When I was her age, that would have been a crime.

Can you remember how much you wanted to sleep when you were a teenager? I can. Remembering the sound of my mother’s voice waking me for school can still make me cringe; it was a knife slashing my thick blanket of sleep, a rock creating ripples in my tranquil pond of sleep, a siren piercing my silent cocoon of sleep—you get the idea.

Waking up for school was a trauma I experienced every weekday morning for what seemed to be decades upon decades but was only in fact twelve years. (Twelve years, by the way, is even now  a bit less than a quarter of my life, which I think is a lot!) Nobody sympathized with my desire to sleep; it was something to be resisted. Actually getting out of the bed was only the beginning. After that, I had to fight to keep my eyes open, throwing water at them again and again, until at last they surrendered to the day. If and when my brain surrendered to the day is another matter altogether.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “teens need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night to function best (for some, 8 1/2 hours is enough).” Wanting to stay up late and sleep late is natural during the teen years, and “most teens do not get enough sleep—one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” I wish that high schools would start their day later so that all the teens could keep their sleep blankets, ponds, and cocoons sacred for as long as they need them. If you’re an education activist, please work on that, okay?

In the meantime, I’m glad my teen is sleeping. Or make that was sleeping. I hear the not-so-pitter-y patter of her not-so-little feet above me now. She’ll be awake long after I fall asleep tonight. And she might sleep later than I do. But, as my best friend likes to say, it’s all good. It’s all good.

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    rcjohnson said,

    most kids do not ever get enough sleep, so let them sleep when they need to and it will pay off in the end result.

  2. 2

    Laura Weldon said,

    When we were teens, my friends and I used to long to come down with “movie star disease.” This imaginary malady could only be cured by bed rest and excessive pandering. There’d be a few relapses of course, enough so that we’d be plied with gifts and adoring attention, but not too much because the big focus was lying in bed during the long long recuperation. We decided side effects might be losing weight despite all the goodies foisted on us to “help us regain an appetite” and a charming weakness that might only be alleviated, once we were on the mend, by the strong arm of whatever boy we most wanted to help us get around.

  3. 4

    threegirlpileup said,

    I don’t really remember feeling low on sleep when I was a teenager, but I’m still glad that one of the gifts my kids get every day is to sleep until they wake up. Honestly, I don’t know how kids in school possibly get enough sleep. We don’t stay up particularly late–we shoot for lights out at 9, and it’s rarely after 10–and my kids routinely sleep until 8:00. It’s hard to imagine that we could go to bed early enough to make it possible to sleep as much as they need AND get out of the house by 7:30 or even earlier.

  4. 6

    Good for you! So hard to follow your own instincts with parenting when others are telling you what you are doing is wrong b/c it goes against society!

  5. 7

    Cristina said,

    I remember when I was in school I was a morning person. I liked getting to school early, and would volunteer to help favorite teachers set up just so I didn’t have to wait with the “herd” for the bell. However, by the afternoon I was in desperate need for a nap. Any classes after lunch were accomplished while I half laid on my desk and doodled in the margins of my notebook. And still I passed with high marks. 🙂

    All of my kids take after their father (and my dad, for that matter). They would stay up all night as long as they had something interesting to discuss. As a matter of self-preservation, I’m now a night owl. I can’t imagine trying to wake them all to get up early for school or force them to bed in the middle of a conversation because they need to be up early!

    Wonderful article!
    Peace and Laughter!

    • 8

      sgaissert said,

      Thanks, Cristina! My husband and daughter both come alive at night. Like you, my natural inclination is to be an early bird, but I’ve adjusted to the “prime time” around here. And my husband has adjusted in the other direction, because of that “job” thing he has. : ) So, the kid is the only one truly living by her own clock.


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