Lack of sleep can be a problem for many families, particularly those who have children with a neurological condition. Although sleep problems tend to be associated with younger children, older children and teenagers often need help too.
Cerebra’s Sleep Service provides advice and support to families trying to get a good night’s sleep. Sarah Coldrey, our Sleep Practitioner in the South West recently met with a family whose teenage son’s sleep routine was disrupting his education.
The Hunters have 3 children and sought our help with the sleep issues their eldest son was having – he is 15 years old and has ADHD. The teenager wasn’t falling asleep until 5am most days and was very tired and missing a lot of school as a result. With important exams ahead this was becoming a real issue.
After meeting with the family and thoroughly assessing their individual circumstances Sarah recommended a technique called ‘Chronotherapy’. This involves altering bedtimes each night, but instead of moving the bedtime backwards gradually as you would with young children (this would take a long time to do and in older children isn’t as successful), you move it forwards, by a few hours each day.
Here is an example of how the times can be moved:
- 1st night: sleep at 4 a.m., wake at 12 midday
- 2nd night: sleep at 7 a.m., wake at 3 p.m.
- 3rd night: sleep at 10 a.m., wake at 6 p.m.
- 4th night: sleep at 1 p.m., wake at 9 p.m.
- 5th night: sleep at 4 p.m., wake at 12 p.m.
- 6th night: sleep at 7 p.m., wake at 3 a.m.
- 7th night: sleep at 10 p.m., wake at 6 a.m.
This technique can be difficult to introduce as it needs careful management – a parent or carer needs to monitor the child and keep consistently to the timings identified above.
Despite having other children and health issues the family were determined to give their son the best possible chance with his exams and were keen to give the plan a go.
Sarah followed up with the family a couple of weeks later and was delighted to hear that the technique had been successful. The teenager had been consistently sleeping from 10pm – 6am every night and as a result had not missed school for a whole week, a dramatic improvement. Ironically the only issue the family were having was that their son now wanted to go to sleep before 10pm!
For individual advice on your family’s sleep problems please get in touch with our sleep service.