How to Sleep Like a Teenager

05/03/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Every morning, I shake my own sleep off and scamper downstairs to wake the "boy." He is my youngest and is the only one still at home, although standing nearly 6'3", hardly a boy. At 15, he is now deep into the teenage sleep pattern. It started about 18 months ago and based on my experience with his older siblings--19 and 21--the teenage sleep pattern will most likely last at least until he is 20. You know that deep, intense sleep that takes over? He sleeps like there is no tomorrow. Sometimes there barely is a tomorrow as teenagers often will sleep through a whole weekend day.

If I am not around to wake him, the boy will set two or three alarms. He will systematically shut each of those off and continue to sleep. This is an issue, and has resulted in a few missed events, but only one school attendance tardy this year. This latter feat achieved only because I will often call him repeatedly from my breakfast meeting.

Even with me there, it is an effort to wake him from dreamland. Usually, I will turn on his lights and sing loudly and obnoxiously to him--some song that has morning connections like "Rise and Shine" or "You are my Sunshine". You would think that would be instant get out of bed provocation. Hardly. I will often need to return a couple of times--now pulling on his size 13 feet, or ruffling his big head. Eventually, he will growl, turnover, exposing a face mashed and creased from sleep. He slowly throws his big legs over the side of bed and rise, at which point he opens his eyes. His older sister could sleep through lights, noise, anything. In fact, she generally would fall asleep watching something on her computer, with all the lights on. So it took more than singing and lights, it took action--jumping on the bed usually worked.

Not all teenagers sleep like the dead. At 16, I discovered insomnia, or I like to think that it found me one night when it got bored of bothering my father and wandered down the hall. It took me a good 34 years to cure myself of it. But this is not the norm. Most teenagers sleep. At least when they can, and they sleep deeply. I have been wondering: What is it with teens that they can sleep?

You would think they would be completely unable to sleep. After all, it is not easy being a teenager. There is teen angst big time. So much to lie awake pondering for hours on end: Why did I say that to Jordan? Did I forget to do my history homework? Do I have practice today? Where did I put that form? Should I go to that party on Saturday? What if I don't get invited to that party on Saturday? What if my mother finds my stash of (fill in the blank)? What if I don't get asked to the dance? What if I do? What if I don't make the soccer team? What am I going to wear tomorrow? When will I get my braces off? What if the teacher calls on me in English tomorrow? I wonder if she thinks I am a dork? What if I don't get into any college? I need a summer job. I am failing math. I hate Spanish. I don't trust my best friend. I lost my cell phone. I wrote something really stupid on Facebook. I think I have a huge zit coming on. I wish I was taller. I wish I was shorter. I wish I was more popular. I wish my parents wouldn't fight. I wish my brother wouldn't pick on me. I wonder what to wear tomorrow.....

With all that going on, how do they sleep? Yes, I know that they are growing and going through puberty and all that physical and hormonal change induces sleep. But hey, I am going through menopause and aging and all that physical and hormonal change seems to prohibit sleep. Instead we are left to lurk outside our teenagers bedrooms, jealous of their deep, deep sleep. Over my decades of insomnia and particularly during my years as mother to teenagers, I have considered their talent for sleep as something that others (non teens) should learn to master.

So here is what I have determined are the secrets to sleeping like a teenager:

  1. Spend the bulk of your day doing something that has absolutely no interest for you.
  2. Run around and play sports for a couple hours every afternoon. If you don't do this, then do something else that you really like and is intense and takes lots of energy--music, theatre, flirting
  3. Spend hours every evening once again doing something that you find completely boring and stay up until all hours doing it.
  4. Get next to no sleep during the week.
  5. Stay up really late at night on Friday and Saturday night.

Try it. And then, like magic you will sleep on those weekend or holiday days for hours and hours and hours on end.