My son started drinking Chai Tea Latte in the mornings. He is in high school now and needed an extra kick to get him going. (I authorized it because it is energy enhancement based on black tea. Plus it’s a drink mixed with milk and his growing bones can use all the calcium they can get.) All three of my kids start school at 8am now, which means that all three of my kids have to wake up an hour earlier than last year, 6am. Plus for my son, high school requires even more time and energy, not to mention high school basketball. There was just a study released talking about how sleep deprivation is leading to additional injuries for student athletes. Well, that stands to reason doesn’t it? If you are tired your response time slows, and what is sports without acute response time right? Duh! There is so much that our kids are having to do in the course of a day it’s not surprising that they are in need of pick me ups. Why should they be any different than us right? Which is why Starbucks has become a new goto hang out for kids. Caffeine is a drug, remember. I know you have been drinking caffeine so long you don’t recall what a first time caffeine rush feels like, but your kids do. They know it and they like it. You know who else knows? Brands. Brands that make caffeinated drinks. That’s why they are pedaling to your kids. They want their business. They want them hooked. And what can we say, hypocrites that we are. “Don’t drink caffeine.” “Caffeine bad!” (glub glub glub slurp slurp.) But yeah, that’s exactly what we have to do. We have to treat high dose caffeine like the drug that it is. We have to treat it like alcohol and teach our children how to use it responsibly. Because, guess what? Caffeine can kill your kids. It killed a beautiful young fourteen year old girl earlier this year, Anais Fournier. She drank two, 24 ounce cans of Monster, and then she died. What? How? It’s just a beverage?! It’s legal! Yes, it is. But this young girl had an underlying heart issue. A very common one that usually poses no real threat to life. Nothing major. Just a little smolder. However, pouring two cans of Monster on that smolder turned it into a bonfire, like gasoline on a flame, and she died. Are you willing to take that chance with your child? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
The truth is there is no earthly reason that your child needs to consume that much caffeine in a day anyhow. Especially fast, and back to back. A Monster Energy drink is sais to have as much as 5x the caffeine that is in cup of coffee. At least with coffee you drink slower because it is hot. That allows the body time to metabolize the drug. But cold, with a wide mouth spout? That’s a different story. Kids are slamming these drinks, literally. On some campuses, high school and college, slamming energy drinks is an actual game. They may as well call it Russian Roulette because there is a chance they they will chamber a metaphorical bullet with one of those slams and end up dead. Have I scared you yet? Good, at least I am not alone. Because as a mother of three children who look like walking zombies in the morning trying to get out of bed and go to school, kids wo are susceptible to the enticing ads for caffeinated drinks, I’m worried that their need for energy could potentially outweigh their common sense.
We adults talk out of both sides of our mouths. Study after study talks about how important it is for a teen to get over 9 hours of sleep and yet we schedule school start bells to occur before 8am. We claim that sports injuries are more likely to happen to sleep deprived athletes, but then we schedule games and practices well into the night. We launch lawsuits about children drinking over caffeinated drinks, but then we allow for brands to directly market to children with little to no oversight or management of the drug within, caffeine. Even worse we tell our children that they shouldn’t drink these caffeinated beverages, but we ourselves can’t get out the door in the morning without our own caffeine jolt. We even talk about our addiction openly and almost lovingly on tv, through social media, in public, in private, everywhere. But it’s a case of do as I say not as I do. Talk about mixed messaging! We have a serious problem on our hands and it is killing and maiming many of our kids. So what can we do? What should we do? First off we should start practicing what we preach. But realizing that weaning off of caffeine may be a hard sell I have 7 suggestions to help your teens get better sleep so that they will have more energy, naturally.
1. CONSISTENT SLEEP AND WAKE TIMES
Kids should do their level best to wake up in the morning at the same time, even on weekends. As a mother of three strong willed children myself I am painfully aware of how hard a sell this idea can be. First and foremost I lead by example. I keep a fairly consistent sleep schedule. Which means even on the weekend my body wakes me at 5am. If my weekend plans don’t actually necessitate such an early rise, I have learned to give in to my body’s internal clock, do a little work or exercise, and then allow myself the sweet indulgence of a morning nap. That way I don’t alter my body’s instincts that need to dominate most of my week. Same goes for the evening. This is when I get serious push back form my kids. When I suggest at 9 or 10 o’clock that it’s time to hit the sack I hear, “But Mom it’s the weekend!” My heart understands their pleas, but my head knows that the body isn’t as adaptable as we would like it to be. Our body doesn’t distinguish between Monday and Saturday. It’s all the same to it. So whenever possible hit the hay consistently.
2. SLEEPYTIME ROUTINE
Condition your body with a sleepytime routine. When our kids are little we tend to create a bedtime routine, perhaps a bath and then storytime, to get them in the habit of preparing for sleep. When our kids get older they take over their bathing routine, and reading tends to be tied to homework. Encourage your children to put a period on the end of their day with a familiar routine of their own design; a series of activities that tell their bodies that it is time to slow down and prepare for slumber. A regular routine will help their bodies function more predictably and efficiently, just like when they were little.
3. LET THERE BE LIGHT…OR NOT
Remove all stimulating light to shut those neurons down. Try using blackout curtains or a sleep mask. At night I often have to make rounds. My kids like read at night, usually something for school. And they will often fall asleep mid passage, leaving light borring down on them, disrupting their sleep waves. So, if I wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom I make rounds to each of their rooms to turn off bedside lights. That way, what little sleep they do get goes as deep as possible without stimulating light to disrupt it. Conversely when it’s time for them to get up in the morning I bathe them in light. If I have timed my own rise right in the morning I like to go to each child’s room and turn their lights on 5 minutes or so before I tell them to get up. I find that turning on the lights and speaking to them at them same time can be very jarring. Almost like someone jumping out of a dark corner and scarring you. Not a very pleasant way to start a day.That’s why whenever possible I try to wake them up in stages. I can always tell if their body clock is in tune because they don’t bite my head off when I speak to them. If their clock is off I practically need a whip and a chair to keep their lion like response at bay when I wake them up. It’s hard on both of us.
Remember when you were in the hospital with your child and the nurses swaddled them like sausages. (I never was able to replicate that wrap job when I got home.) Part of the reason nurses swaddle babies is to give them a sense of calm and comfort. At 42 years of age I still need some swaddling, but I do so in the form of a heavy blanket. The weight makes me feel secure and comforted. It works for my kids too. There are special weighted blankets sold by many companies that are used as a part of treatment for ADHD, autism, insomnia and other diagnosis. But you don’t have to have a chronic medical issue for the weighted blanket to be beneficial. We all can benefit from a “sleep hug”. And that’s just how I would describe being wrapped up in a heavy blanket, a “sleep hug”. A footnote, this heavy blanket is not about heat,. Although a warm and cozy environment is important for good sleep too. We keep our rooms cool and our beds warm with electric blankets in the winter. It’s better for the budget too. Win win.
5. BATH TIME
Experts say kids shouldn’t eat, drink, exercise, work on a computer, or watch tv a few hours before bedtime. If you are a parent of a teen you know htat such a prscription is nearly impossible to fill. My son has basketball practice or games late in the evening and wehn he is done he is famished. To unwind while he is eating he likes to watch tv. That’s four broken rules right there. Now I don’t allow any caffeinated drinks at night ( I don’t allow soda in my house for myself or my kids at all actually.) My suggestion is to encourage your teen to get in the habit of taking a bath or at least a hot shower before going to bed. For one thing health wise it’s a very good idea to wash off allergens before bed so your kids won’t be breathing in any allergens that could clog up their sinuses, inflame their turbinates or cloud their lungs. Secondly, just like when they were young the warm water helped to calm them down and prepare them for slumber. Their feet may hang outside of the tub now, but the water still does the job.
6. “BRAIN DUMP”
This is something I started doing when I was a teen. I would find that my brain was overflowing with things that I needed to do or remember. OR brimming with thoughts about events that happened during the day, conversations, friendships, love longing, disappointment, you name it. And if I allowed all of those thoughts to bounce around in my brain without a chaperone I would have a terrible time getting to sleep. So I stated doing what I refer to as a “brain dump” at night. I would write down all that was bouncing around in my head. I would store it in a journal so that I could go to sleep unburdened. It didn’t always work completely, but it definitely was more helpful than harmful. Every little bit matters right?
7. HEALTHY HABITS
The truth is if our kids wait until bedtime to seek good sleep it’s too late. Good sleep starts at the beginning of the day. It’s about the food they eat, the exercise they engage in, the conversations they share and the stress they avoid. We need to get our kids to look at the totality of their day, not just moments. Encourage them to take stock of what they are eating, making sure they are getting enough nutrients to fuel a proper sleep. Just like everything, we need to prepare our children to be responsible for themselves outside of our homes and our care. Managing their good health day and night is a skill that will help them achieve their dreams.
Sweet dreams we hope they may be.
Miss Lori can be found Musing from her Minivan at MissLori.TV, Wearetherealdeal.com, YoungChicagonista, and TheChicagoMoms.com. You can also see her Activating to Be Great at Miss Lori’s CAMPUS on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, TOUT and LinkedIn.