Staying up late is less an act of rebellion than a reaction to physical changes during adolescent years.

Tips to Help Teenagers Stay Awake in School

by Stephanie Parker

Parents of teenagers are familiar with the seemingly impossible task of making sure their kids go to sleep at a reasonable hour so they can remain awake and alert at school the next day. Teens tend to stay up fairly late, leaving them groggy enough to use algebra as nap time. Drowsing during class is not only frustrating for teachers; it can also make it difficult for kids to absorb and retain the information they are expected to learn each day. Staying awake at school begins with getting a good night's sleep the night before.


According to the organization Sleep Ontario, under normal circumstances, the body begins to produce melatonin within an hour or so of bedtime. Melatonin is a chemical the body produces naturally that helps regulate sleep. Exposure to bright light inhibits production of melatonin, so an hour or two before bed, dim the lights in the house and create a calm atmosphere. This can help kick start the production of melatonin, helping your teenager feel sleepy at a more reasonable hour. When it's time to wake up, expose your teenager to bright light by opening the shades or turning on the bedroom light. The bright light signals that it is time to get up and start the day, helping your teen to be more alert as he walks into homeroom.

Off the Grid

As you dim the lights in the house, also turn off the television, silence cell phones and unplug the computer. Electronic gadgets are distracting and can give your teenager more excuses to stay awake long past the time he should be asleep. As stated on PBS's Frontline, these machines can set your mind to racing, instead of helping you calm down before bed. Instead of watching a late night show, talk about the good things that have happened that day and what you're looking forward to later in the week. Avoid placing a television in your teen's bedroom, and make it clear that his computer is not to be turned on within an hour before bed. A quiet, social media-free bedtime can lead to better sleep and a more refreshed awakening. Waking feeling fully rested will make it much easier for your teenager to take notes during chemistry.

Sleep Schedule

Teenagers have to get up very early to be on time for school each weekday during the school year and often try to make up for the sleep they miss during the week by sleeping late and taking long naps on the weekends. While a nap on Friday afternoon and sleeping until noon on Saturday can seem like quite a relief at the time, it is counterproductive when it comes to setting a strong sleep schedule that leaves you well-rested. states that naps should be limited to 30 minutes. Encourage your teen to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day in order to reset his internal clock. This way, waking up for school won't seem like such a shock to the system, and your teen will be more alert during school.

Homework Time

The last thing your teen wants to do when she gets home is lug all the books out of her bag to get started on homework. After all, she's spent the last 8 hours staring at a blackboard, trying to make sense of the information her teachers want her to absorb. Give her a break and a snack, but set a homework time each weekday soon after. She'll be glad for the scheduled homework time when she isn't pulling an all-nighter to finish a history project. Taking a second look at the day's curriculum within a couple hours of school will also help her remember all she's learned that day.

About the Author

Stephanie Parker holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education, and a Master's of Education in library science. She currently works as a school librarian and spent six years teaching Prekindergarten and Head Start.

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