QUESTION: Ever since my 14-year-old son started high school, he just wants to sleep all the time, even on weekends when he used to be out surfing or hanging out with his friends. Is this normal or should I be concerned?
BBB: Doctors and specialists tell us that a child’s need for sleep actually increases as he comes into his teens. This change is different from becoming night owls who easily stay up so late and sleep long into the sunny day. It is a physiological need, as sleep affects all systems of the child’s growing body, most especially his brain.
Then there is the reality that we process all that we have learned that day in our sleep that night. Some high schools have even begun experimenting with starting school later in the morning, as those 8 a.m. classes are hotbeds of droopy-eyed kids, if they show up at all.
I cannot tell you exactly what is going on with your son. But clearly, something could be cooking. If his desire to sleep came on suddenly, it is a good idea to take a look at your child’s world. Sometimes sleep is a defense, for teens and adults. A depressed person, for example, might spend more than the average amount of time in bed. Sometimes it is an avoidance, a response to a social issue, problems with friends, a social relationship gone awry. It could be an issue with a particular class; a fear he is not able to express.
The first stop ought to be your child’s physician. Depending upon his relationship with your son, the doctor may be able to get an inkling about what is going on, having ruled out anything physiological.
It is not a bad idea to casually chat with your son and share with him that you have noticed how much more he is sleeping these days. Tell him that you are concerned that all is not well with him. If he assures you that you are crazy, you could do some digging with parents of his friends, teachers or counselors at school.
Continue to pay very close (but not obvious) attention to your son’s habits (including his appetite) to determine if anything else has changed. A carelessly dropped comment or an overheard conversation with a sibling or peer may offer insight.
If all else fails, you can hardly go wrong with asking your physician for a recommendation for an adolescent therapist. For many a teen, it is easier to talk to someone who isn’t a family member.
Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals. She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and Good Morning America and has been cited in Parents Magazine, Twins Magazine, Family Circle and many more. Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far.