Q: What can we do to encourage our teenage grandson to get up in the morning? He is at school and has a Saturday morning job, but it is a constant battle to get him to either on time. He is often on his iPad until midnight and, left to his own devices, would probably lie-in until lunchtime.
A: Your struggle is a familiar one, but applying a bit of science may help. Teenagers need more sleep – an average of 8 – 9 hours a night as opposed to 7 – 8 for a typical adult – but bringing your grandson’s body clock forward a couple of hours may make it easier for him to get going in the morning.
The first step is to wake him at a similar time every morning irrespective of whether he is going to school or work - so no long lie-ins during the holidays, and he should be up by 10am at the latest on a Sunday. If he is tired he should compensate by going to bed earlier - a useful rule for anyone struggling with their sleep because day time naps and long lie-ins cause more problems than they solve in the long term.
He should also make an effort to increase his exposure to natural daylight in the morning. Light falling on the back of the eye helps set our internal clock by inhibiting the production of the sleep inducing hormone melatonin, making us more alert. And at the end of the day, when daylight wanes, melatonin levels start to rise again preparing us for sleep.
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