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5 Ways to Help Your Tired Teen Wake Up in The Morning 

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT
Meet The Team >

If you’re like most parents, you struggle to get your teenager up in the morning. Bleary-eyed and grumbling, they can’t seem to get out of bed before 10am. Obviously, this creates problems. You become frustrated they’re asleep 10 minutes after the alarm goes off. They’re unwilling to leave the comfort of their bed, so you – because you have to choose your battles – decide to leave them alone.

But that doesn’t help either one of you.

They barely make it to school on time, or they’re late almost every day.

And you have to deal with this annoying power struggle during your frazzled, hectic morning rush…every single day.

First, we’ll reassure you that this is a common issue with teens.

Research shows that most teenagers do not get enough sleep at night, which means most of them are likely to have a hard time getting up in the morning.

Here are a few tips that can help you resolve the issue.

Five Ways to Get That Tired Teen Out Of Bed

    1. Food, glorious food. Tempt them with breakfast. Yes, this means you’ll have to get up a little earlier or set aside some more time to cook. But the power of breakfast might work wonders, especially if your teen is a foodie. Whether it’s their favorite omelet (can anything beat the aroma of frying onions?), a protein-filled green shake, a sweet fruit smoothie, or even just a bagel and cream cheese, the allure of a nice breakfast might help your teen shake off those z’s and make it easier to get out of bed. As soon as the food is ready, tell them to come and get it while it’s hot. If that doesn’t work, bring the food close so they can smell it. Of course, a hot daily breakfast may not be a sustainable solution – but try it once or twice to see if it works. Then you can use it when you’re desperate, or when you have extra time in the morning anyway.
    2. Technology. Try a different alarm clock. That plain old “beep-beep-beep” may not cut it. If their iPhone alarm doesn’t work, it’s time to try something new. Though waking up is almost always going to be unpleasant for your sleep-deprived teen, certain “gentle-wake” alarm clocks help make the transition from slumber to wakefulness more peaceful. These alarms utilize mood lighting – a gradually brightening light – to stimulate sunrise so that their body feels alert even before their eyelids open. One app, called Sleep Cycle, utilizes advanced sleep intelligence to help teens wake up during their lightest sleep phase. And then there are alarms that are exactly the opposite: they work precisely because they’re so annoying. Some clocks will bounce away from the bed and won’t stop ringing until the user gets out of bed to find it and turn it off. Others come with expelling parts that won’t stop going off until all the pieces are gathered and put back into place inside the clock.
    3. Coffee. Caffeine for teens may not be a great idea for every day, but it’s reasonable to have a cup after staying up late studying for a test – especially if that’s the only way they’ll get out of bed and get to the test on time. Make your teen a light cup o’ joe to help in these situations. It takes about ten minutes for caffeine to take effect, so they won’t wake up instantaneously, but it will work. And forty-five minutes later – when the caffeine really kicks in – they’ll be at school, where the coffee will keep them from falling asleep over their paper, or worse, during the teacher’s lecture.
    4. Early to bed. Help them get to sleep earlier. Sleep-deprived teens have a harder time getting up in the morning. And sleep deprivation affects much more than wake-up times. It can lead to chronic negative mood, bad grades, and impair concentration, motivation, and focus. If your teen does not get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, there’s a chance they’re sleep deprived. The more sleep they lose, the more sleep-debt they have, and the worse they feel. Their sleep-debt can build up over days and months until they’re functioning at a fraction of their optimal self. So, to help them wake up earlier in the morning, help them go to sleep earlier. It’s basic math. One tip? Enforce a no-electronics rule after 11:00 pm. The blue light impacts melatonin production and makes it harder for teens to fall asleep.
    5. Let go. Ask your teen if they actually do want your help waking up in the morning. If they say no, then simply remove yourself from the situation. Tell yourself not to get involved, emotionally or physically. If your teen oversleeps and gets to class late? That’s their problem. Not yours. Misses an important test because they slept past the alarm? That’s a natural consequence. Unless your adolescent is internally motivated to change on their own, or asks your help in changing, then leave them alone. Eventually, they’ll realize those few minutes (or many minutes) of extra sleep aren’t worth the negative effects it has on their academics.

A Note About Mental Health Issues

Sometimes, having trouble waking up in the morning is a sign of depression, anxiety, or other mental health or behavioral issues, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). If sleeping late is accompanied by other symptoms like negative mood, lethargy, irritability, pessimism, and hopelessness, or even more serious issues like self-harming behavior and/or suicidal ideation, get help immediately. Self-harm and/or suicidal ideation can indicate significant underlying issues. At the very least, they mean your teen needs an assessment from a mental health professional, and may need treatment at a residential treatment center (RTC), partial hospitalization program (PHP) or intensive outpatient program (IOP) for adolescents.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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