During my four children’s teenage years, their sleeping patterns changed – dramatically. It was especially noticeable during the summer when the demands of school hours were not in place: up late at night and sleep through most, if not all, of the morning hours.
The change didn’t bother me that much. In an intuitive way it seemed natural, and besides, attempts at modifying their new sleeping patterns were futile.
What bothered me most was my mother’s comments. When we visited the farm and her grandchildren did their new-normal sleeping thing, my mother (an absolute saint of a person) would question my parenting skills saying, “Your Dad and I would never let you and your brothers and sisters sleep until noon.”
It doesn’t vindicate my parenting skills, but my intuition has a research base. Dr. William C. Dement, The Promise of Sleep, writes:
What we guessed, and what Mary’s work at Brown proved, is that there is a change in the biological clock during the teen years. Adolescents tend to be the classic night owls, staying up late and sleeping in late. The pattern is caused by a biologically driven shift in the circadian cycle that gives teens a troublesome kick in alertness about the time the folks around them (younger and older) are getting sleepy and going to bed. Most teenagers will not start feeling sleepy until an hour or so after adults do (p117).
This one paragraph may not change the world, but it can give parents of teenagers some relief knowing that their children are, well, just wired differently.