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Teenager staying up all night


My son has always had difficulty going to sleep and he used to say it was because he did not want morning to come - and thus school.
Now that he is a teenager - this has kicked in big time and he is very irrational about it all. It has become so much worse during the school break (they go back in two weeks time)

I have set house rules for bed time and sleep time. As a sole parent I am finding these hard to enforce. The modem goes off at 10. But instead of listening to music on his iPod as I thought, he is listening to comedy programs - in fact Ricky Gervais podcast with Karl Pilkington over and over again. And then he does this during the day - so I hear it as well! Does anyone else have children who want to listen over and over and over to something other than music? It just doesn't seem normal to me.

I am kind of at my wits end with the sleep issue. He wakes me up at 2am to tell me he can't sleep or tell me he is therefore staying up.

I then found this book on-line (link below) that has lots and lots of good information on sleep and teenager and gives sound advice regarding how you can try and help your teenager change their circadian rhythm round.
I note the difference he says in when to take melatonin and what others seem to recommend. On the bottle I bought recently it says half an hour before bed. But he says that it needs to be taken 6 hours before bed time. So I'll give that a try.

Does anyone else have trouble with their teenager sleeping? Would love some advice!

Take care

Re: Teenager staying up all night

Have been there with this very thing and have to say I've no advice!
When it was happening to my daughter, which was shortly before we decided to let her leave school and continue to study at home, it became a huge issue.

She would more often than not, stay awake all night, but then would start to feel tired by 1/2 pm and then would sleep for a few hours, waking up just as the rest of the house was in bed

For a while I let it happen, but I slowly encouraged her to take up exercise, in her case running, and I stopped commenting on it.

|It took a bit, but eventually her sleep came back to normal. She'll still stay up til 2 somenights, even when she has to be up next morning, but then that night she'll head to bed earlier because tiredness hits.

On the listening to the same things over and over, I think sometimes there's comfort and familarity in this. |have you asked your son why he does listen to the same podcasts|?

Hope his sleep returns to normal before term begins.
Take care


Re: Teenager staying up all night

Hi Virginia

So there is hope! Thanks for replying. You know what it is like then - to worry about them just constantly thinking they can stay up into the early hours of the morning and watching them get so tired and not think straight. To me he has wasted his holidays as he spends most of the day in bed! But to him in a way - perhaps this means avoiding leaving the house and avoiding the question of 'why don't you catch up with a friend etc'. So yes it is probably all in place for 'avoidance'. I had thought these holidays would be so much different than last year - but not to be. He finds it hard to leave the house again.

You are probably right about the comfort aspect. He says he listens as it makes him feel good and he once said it helps him not to think about other things (presumably anxiety producing although he wouldn't be specific when I asked). At least it is harmless stuff and the humour keeps my son's spririts up. I also don't think he really 'listens' now - he just has it babbling away as comfort.
When I got up this morning at 8am...he was asleep - Ricky Gervais talking to himself on the iPod.
It is like my son also has to have something fill the space...he hates silence (yet he also hates loud noises). But he hates the time that I love where I get my thoughts together - he fills it with podcasts, music or radio.

I guess his thoughts don't sort themselves out like mine do and perhaps that quiet time is a time he fears because his negative thoughts crowd in. This is where he needs to work on cognitive behaviour therapy let the thoughts come and deal with them in terms of changing them. It will take some maturity to do that . Even adults, I would imagine, find this kind of thing hard.

I'll just have to wait and see with my son and fingers crossed things start to fall into place before term begins.
Take care - and hope all is well with you.

Re: Teenager staying up all night

Hi Linda - yes the sleep issue is big in our house. My older daughter who is now almost 20 has always been a night owl. Much prefers to be up till 2am and sleep till lunch time but thankfully is able to adjust her pattern when she needs to, ie attend uni. A few years ago however she was awake till who knows when and had to get up early for something. I heard a crash in the shower and found her having a full blown seizure. It was so frightening and she was rushed to hospital. They did all the routine testing and did find some abnormality on her EEG but subsequent tests found nothing. She never had another one. I think that scared her enough to realise she couldn't do late nights and early mornings.
My DD school refuser just sleeps all the time. Even if she is in bed by 9:30pm she would sleep till lunch time the next day if I let her. If she has a late night, she will be asleep in the afternoon on the lounge. A big part of not being able to get her to school is that I just can't wake her. She will sit up and eat cereal, talk to me and be dead to the world again in 5 minutes and have no recollection of me talking to her. We tried melatonin once when she was younger and again a couple of years ago but the only thing that happened is she started having extremely vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams. No affect on her sleep pattern. She also watches things over and over and always says it is because it makes her feel better - only because she is not thinking about her anxiety. She is very social however and is fine during the holidays - in fact she is opposite to your son in that she hates being at home for more than one day - I have to constantly be taking her somewhere or she gets "bored" I hate that word :-) To be honest after reading so many stories from other sufferers I think modern technology is causing major problems. Perhaps it is just that it makes our children so accessible to everybody's judgement and criticism or the fact that it is an easy way out for them. We had no choice but to go out and socialise as there was nothing else to do. The constant comparing themselves to the outside world (online) that appears so real to them and yet is so fake. I am grateful my daughter has a couple of interests, horse riding and now surfing that get her outdoors. Do you have any pets at home? just wondering if your son would enjoy a puppy - something he could be responsible for and get him outside...just a thought. I bet you like me are not looking forward to school going back - we have had one panic attack already thinking about going back. I just keep reassuring her if it doesn't work out we will find another way. I have no idea what that will be though.....

Re: Teenager staying up all night

Hi Linda.

I'm very interested in the sleep issue too as since the death of his father my youngest son has become mainly nocturnal. He isn't aiming for this and has asked me to get him up at a regular time but I cannot get him to wake up fully if he hasn't had the sleep he needs. If I wake him when he's sleep deprived he cannot concentrate on anything and usually falls asleep as soon as he sits down anywhere. I have given up trying to wake him after the first couple of attempts if he shows no sign of being aware of what's around him.

He has repetitive programmes that he likes to watch on TV if he cannot get to sleep. In his case it's the British comedy series the IT Crowd. He doesn't have a TV in his room so comes downstairs to watch programmes he likes on catch up TV. I think he finds comedy programmes that he knows a safe way of chasing away unwelcome thoughts. The repetitive part is therefore comforting.

He's starting to wake up in the mornings a bit more regularly now but I'm not sure why or if it is sustainable. He's used melatonin in the past and has considered trying it again so maybe taking it earlier would help.

Re: Teenager staying up all night

Hi all,
Thought I'd add to the mix re sleep and repetitive watching/ listening. I have 4 daughters 16, 14 , 11(school refuser) and 8 years old. They all apart from the 16 year old watch things repeatedly - I don't know why or how they tolerate it as it would drive me mad! I agree with earlier comments re technology, my daughters school do everything on and give all their pupils iPads (I know its crazy but surprisingly common round here). They are constantly "wired". We have had to implement technology free evenings to make them physically disconnect themselves. A paediatrician once told me that children's brains these days don't ever get chance to shut down due to constant stimulation. Saying that my daughter who has anxiety problems needs constant music, tv, work etc to keep her brain occupied or the panic takes hold.
I might be wrong but I genuinely believe that teenagers have such a struggle managing their sleep patterns and it doesn't take much to knock them out. Mine are all different but my 13 year old in particular could sleep all day and be awake all night and she's the most stable anxiety wise and a very chilled out, happy child! I try not to stress about it too much because we have enough trouble in this house already! A lot of my friends children are the same. What I think I'm trying to say is perhaps some of it is "normal"!! Teenage stuff rather than anxiety related. I do think some kids just need less sleep and find it harder to sleep for 8 hours at night and other kids body clock just doesn't want to fit in with the normal pattern. I know all my girls sleeping pattern changes during longer school holidays - their natural body clock seems to be bed at 11pm to midnight and getting up about 9-10am even the 8 year old who in term time is up at 6am!
Hope I've made sense.
Beccy x

Re: Teenager staying up all night

Thanks Beccy

That is reassuring. I guess the problem is that kids with School Refusal anxiety can't really afford to have a sleep issue as well! Makes life twice as difficult.