about themselves. But if your teen is a serious athlete, it’s a good idea to be aware of how much time is devoted to practices and meets and make sure she isn’t over-extended and dangerously sleep deprived.
Sleep researcher Mary Carskadon notes that extended travel by sports teams can be particularly hard on teams that play on the opposite coast. West Coast athletes playing in the east might not be able to fall asleep until later on the night before a game and not get enough sleep to play well. East Coast teams that play in the west will have an advantage over their opponents if they play early in the day because they’ll have been awake longer and have more energy; however, when they return home, especially if they’ve been gone a week or more, they may have a significant phase delay that will keep them from falling asleep until late. While adults who travel from coast to coast can experience problems adjusting to the different time zones, teens are at a greater disadvantage because of their different inner clocks.
With their lives crammed full with classes, homework, after-school activities, jobs, social events, and family time, today’s teens are busy from the moment they get out of bed until the moment they climb back in. That leaves them with no time to relax, reflect, or have a good heart to heart with a friend—all vital during the emotionally charged, change-filled teen years. So teens who are especially busy but have a strong need for time to themselves often see the hours after their family is asleep as the only time they can call their own. That time may be used for just about anything. Some teens use it to call or IM their friends. Others like to read, write in journals, or listen to music. Still others use the time to work on a hobby. After a hectic day, quiet time, when no one’s asking anything of them and they can actually relax, can be very appealing to adolescents—and worth the exhaustion that results the next day.
Another reason teens choose to stay up late at night is because they can. It’s not only quiet after midnight, but it’s a time over which they can have some control. After a day that’s regimented by school administrators, teachers, coaches, and parents, the night hours are a time when kids can be in charge. For independent-minded teens, who are working to break away and find their own identity, time that they can regulate can seem like a must-have.