A recent front-page article in the S.F. Chronicle explained a crucial connection between inadequate sleep and depression among teens. Rather than merely being a hallmark of depression, as was previously thought, sleep deprivation may actually be one cause of the condition.
I must have needed some comic relief after taking in the body of this sobering article, because by the time I got to the tips from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on “how to raise a well-rested teen,” I was laughing so hard, I thought I was reading the Onion. Raise a teen? As if. (Heck, you can’t even rear one. But I pedantically digress…)
My sons are both in college now, but I couldn’t help amusing myself by thinking about what would have happened had I intervened a few years ago in the ways the experts recommend.
Set a bedtime that allows for nine hours of sleep.
Me: Boys, you have to wake up at seven. From now on, please turn your lights out at 9:45 so you can be asleep by ten.
Evan: [doesn’t dignify the topic with a response]
Reuben: Mom, are you hallucinating again?
Encourage consistency, even on the weekends.
Me: Boys! Time to get up! It’s seven, and I’m Encouraging Consistency!
Me: Boys! Time to get up! It’s eight, and I’m trying to Encourage Consistency!
Me: Boys! It’s after noon! Never mind about that consistency thing! Could you please just cooperate, so I can retain a shred of dignity as a parent?
Plan ahead: prepare for school the night before.
Wait, now I’m supposed to do my kids’ homework? It’s way too hard for me.
Set a curfew on phone use, e-mails, texting, etc.
What’s that famous quote about an unenforceable law breeding contempt for all laws?
Limit after-school activities.
Me: Reuben, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to cut down on violin lessons during the week.
Reuben: YESSS! [leaps for joy]
Me: And Evan, you need to reduce your homework time. For your own health, sweetie, please taper down from insufficient to none at all.
Evan: Great minds, Mom—I’ve been thinking the same thing.
Limit weeknight chores.
Ah, but how am I going to break the news?
Look, I’m all in favor of educating teens about depression, and about the choice they’re making when they favor texting, iPods, Facebook, socializing and late-night cramming over REMs. But should we parents buy into the ridiculous idea that if we could only follow some helpful hints, we’d be able to control our children?
I can’t be the only well-meaning mother who has literally lost sleep trying to figure out what to insist on, what to guide, and what to let be.
Hmm… are sleep-deprived moms more susceptible to depression? Just wondering.
Published in the Piedmont Post, December 2, 2009