29 answers

12 Year Old Son Having Trouble Sleeping Well

My 12 year old has never been much of a sleeper, but his sleeping seems to be getting worse as he gets older. He takes a while to fall asleep (we try an earlier bedtime, but with sports and other activities, we don't always get home before 8:30 or 9. Then he reports waking often during the night, sometimes getting right back to sleep, but often lying there for a while. He gets LOTS of exercise during the day, and as a rule he never has caffeine and not much chocolate either. He reads a book at night - usually an assignment for school, or his Bible. He is sometimes hard to wake up, but usually will get up when I say and getting a shower helps him become fully awake. He seems to have plenty of energy, but the thing thta concerns me is he is more irritable and fights more often when he hasn't slept well.

I have not called the doc's office yet, as I really don't want to medicate my 12 year old! He will not drink chamomile tea or warm milk (don't blame him!) so I am hoping to find some herbal remedy in a capsule form, or something else. We have tried massaging feet and back with lotion (lavendar) but he didn't like that scent, either! So any suggestions you might have will be welcome!

Thanks in advance!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow! Lots of replies - thanks everyone!

I should have mentioned more about our routine - 1) we eat dinner before/at the ball games, and homework MUST be done before or they don't play or practice - period! 2) I have 3 kids, and they all have always had to choose just ONE activity at a time. Both the boys are playing baseball and are on the same age team. When that is over, they will sign up for basketball. I did let him try running Cross Country for his middle school this year (WHILE playing baseball!) and that just wrapped up. All those races were after school or on Saturdays and he actually does sleep better on days when he runs. 3) None of my kids have a TV or computer in their rooms (neither do we). We actually just got satellite service again so we could watch the Olympics, but we lived without any TV service for 2 years while building our house. 4) I will never be one to "cut out" sports as I am a firm believer in fun exercise and all the other benefits of being part of a team. If my kids had NO activities or sports, they would be sitting around trying to watch the TV or play video games all the time! Not having that! 5) He chooses whether to read (by lamplight) and WHAT he reads. I would never force my kids to read anything - even the Bible - but he has better Christian habits than I do!!! So I leave it up to him. 6) He does shower at night if he has gotten sweaty during the day or evening - he hates to go to bed dirty, but he also likes to get one in the mornings as it wakes him up better and helps with his longer hairstyle now.

So, alot of what people suggested, I have already tried or we just do them habitually, so I am thinking his hormones have alot to do with it. He is very bright and has never needed ALOT of sleep, but this summer (during no sports/activities at all) is when it started getting bad. We talk regularly about any problems he may be worried about and he is good about telling either me or his dad about things that bother him.

I am going to call the doc and see if they can just suggest things over the phone instead of me paying them $85 for a visit! Melatonin sounds good so far, but I am always leary of drugs or herbs, especially things that are not tested and approved first. We try to take as little as possible into our bodies that we don't need for immediate extreme relief.

I am saving all these suggestions for the talk with the doc and will likely try things until he is sleeping regularly. Again, thanks so much for taking the time to respond! I will try to be more thorough to save people some time in the future! :D

Featured Answers

Hi A.,

I just wanted to mention that exercise is like a stimulate. It is sometimes hard to go to sleep or stay asleep right after exercising. A hormone is released in the body that can keep you up.

I give my kids melatonin, 3mg tablets. My 10yods was having trouble waking up & often told me he didn't sleep well. I crush his up & put it in a little bit of water about 8pm at night, bedtime is 9pm. I also have been giving it to my 16yodd and they both tell me they sleep better. I take it to and it helps. You can find melatonin at most stores, Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens.

Hope that helps.

Melatonin 5 mg is what we use. Give it to him about 30 minutes before bed and it will help him unwind. It is an herbal remedy and works with it being dark and it works great. It is a tablet not a capsule so it has to be taken whole but is worth it. I even take it sometimes when I am wound up. My daughter had the same issues. Good luck.

More Answers

Hi A.,

I thought almost exactly what Anna said in her post regarding your son coming home so late - 8:30 or 9:00. Getting home that late, eating, doing homework, etc, is not giving him decompression time that he really needs. It is like he's pulling a double-shift, A., "working" first and second shift back-to-back. I wouldn't be able to go to sleep that quickly either if it were me.

The other thing to remember is that teens usually start developing a later "sleep clock". That's why so many of them want to stay up late and sleep in the next morning. So much the opposite of little kids who wake mommies and daddies at 6:00 am ready to play and go to bed early! Your son is moving into teenhood, and between that and having no time to "let his hair down" at home, it may be hard to change this unless you have him drop some after-school activities. I would recommend that you take him for a sleep study and see what the doctor says that might help. This is their expertise and they might have some good ideas for you.

All my best,
D.

1 mom found this helpful

As a psychotherapist I hear about sleeping problems all the time. Your son is going through puberty which brings about a whole set of changes, sleep being just one. It doesn't sound like he has a problem going to sleep, just staying asleep. I often suggest relaxation or visualization exercises to get back to sleep. First, figure out if he is worried or anxious about remembering something. If so, have him write it down. Otherwise, have him imagine himself someplace soothing or calming, like the beach or the mountains. It's best if it's a real place he's been to. Have him imagine being there and using all his senses: what does he see, smell, hear, feel. Really try to put himself there. He can even use external aids. My son had a fish tank in his room and it really helped him imagine he was snorkeling. Limit external sources such as light, TV, etc. and don't ever look at the clock. This can be managed without medication.

Good luck,
L. D.

1 mom found this helpful

You can try melatonin. You can buy it at any health food store or Whole Foods. They dissolve under your tongue. You can try valerian, L-theanin, or lemon balm. All come in a capsule. I have given all to children younger than 12. There are no side effects and it would be very difficult to give them too much. Ask a knowledgeable sales person for mg. and dosage. If you live in Louisville. Dr. Judy MInogue at Louisville Compounding Pharmacy is amazing.

1 mom found this helpful

Try Valerian, it is an herb that is readily available at most grocery stores. Comes in a pill form so no "yuck" factor. It is very good about inducing sleep. Few adverse events attributable to valerian have been reported for clinical study participants. Headaches, dizziness, pruritus (this is itching), and gastrointestinal disturbances are the most common effects reported in clinical trials but similar effects were also reported for the placebo. If you decide to give it to your son, just make sure the Dr. knows if he goes to prescribe any medications. There is no documentation of drug interactions, but to be on the safe side...

I would consider a wind-down routine for bed. It would be hard for anyone to rush home after playing sports and jump right into bed. You need time to settle down if you're going to sleep well.

Perhaps he could try taking the shower before bed? That could be a way to relax. The reading could follow that. Or record and watch a favorite show before bed even if it's a little later. It seems like it's less important what time he goes to be than that he's relaxed first.

Honestly, too, with a 12-year-old boy there could be other issues going on too to disturb his sleep. I don't want to be graphic here and I haven't faced this with my boys yet to have any advice, but body chemicals change a lot at about 12 and it may be something no pill will cure.

Good luck.

I give my kids melatonin, 3mg tablets. My 10yods was having trouble waking up & often told me he didn't sleep well. I crush his up & put it in a little bit of water about 8pm at night, bedtime is 9pm. I also have been giving it to my 16yodd and they both tell me they sleep better. I take it to and it helps. You can find melatonin at most stores, Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens.

Hope that helps.

Really consider talking to your child's doctor about this problem. Let him/her rule out any medical problems, because there are medical conditions that can interfere with your son's sleep. You should also know that herbal medicines/treatments are also considered "drugs" by your body. They can often have as many disturbing side effects as conventional medications. Also, make sure he does not have things on his mind that are keeping him awake. See if he will tell you of his fears or worries.

Hi A.,

I just wanted to mention that exercise is like a stimulate. It is sometimes hard to go to sleep or stay asleep right after exercising. A hormone is released in the body that can keep you up.

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