Ask the Experts

Q: “Should I Let My Teen Pull All Nighters?”

All nighters are unhealthy for ADHD brains that need sleep, right? Not necessarily. If your teen procrastinates until late, that might be OK.

Q: “My teen has a strong work ethic and does well in school. But even with a whole weekend or evening to get something done, she doesn’t start until late and stays up late. It’s exhausting!” –Exhausted

Hi Exhausted:

Before I dive in, I need to ask a question: You say that “it’s exhausting!” But for whom? Is your daughter complaining that she is exhausted each morning or are you exhausted by how and when she gets her work done? As you also state, your daughter has a strong work ethic and does well in school. I don’t know how old your daughter is, but it sounds like her system just might be working for her!

I am all for students taping into their own best practices so they can figure out what they need to do their best work — and that includes “when.” For some students — especially those with ADHD — waiting until the last minute or close to a deadline works! It gets them activated and stops them from all those false starts that many students do when they have ample time on their hands. For others, starting work late gives them that much-needed adrenaline rush to activate. It also keeps them uberfocused and allows their creative juices to flow freely. Plain and simple: it works!

[Click to Read: High School Is Different. Your Study Strategies Should Be, Too.]

I have a coaching client who is a junior in college. Since the pandemic hit, all of his classes have been virtual and asynchronous. He starts his “school day” at 9 pm and works late into the night. And his grades and even more importantly, his self-confidence, have never been better! Why? Because he figured out that his best practice is to work in the evenings. During the day, he feels no immediacy to get his work done. The day is long and there is plenty of time. However, once evening hits, he feels that clock ticking – and the need to race against it. He figured out that prime time was his best time, and it would be a waste of his time to start earlier.

So, as long as her late nights are NOT getting in the way of her getting up in the morning or feeling exhausted the next day, and she is turning in her assignments on time, my advice to you is to allow your daughter the freedom and flexibility to work the way she needs.

I hope you will check out my newest book, How to Do It Now Because It’s Not Going Away: An Expert Guide To Getting Stuff Done (#CommissionsEarned), where I dive deep into homework best practices.

All Nighters with ADHD: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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