Can't wake him up!

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    • #61928

      Hi All!

      Our son can not wake up in the morning. Two years ago we bought him the “Sonic Boom Loud Plus Vibrating Alarm Clock” and although I could hear it down the hall in our bedroom with an air purifier on, it still can’t wake him up.

      We had a sleep study done (results: has a hard time falling asleep and waking up. *facepalm*), we went to a therapist (still go when needed), tried getting him to bed early….nothing works. We pull his covers off. I’ve had Alexa play obnoxious music. I sing kids songs loudly. Nothing. Basically, it all integrates into his dream.

      The only thing we can do is go upstairs several times in the morning to shake him awake. Turning on the light gives him a massive headache, my yelling at him after going up several times gives him a massive headache – meanwhile we have a massive headache from trying to get him up! He misses the bus – every – single – day, forcing me to drive him to school.

      He’s in high school and I’m worried about his future with his inability to wake up! HELP!!

    • #61931


      This is a hard one! Does he have the same problem waking up if it’s to do something “fun”, i.e., what if you had to leave for Disneyland early the next day? Would he be able to get up?

      A couple of things came to mind as I read your post, for whatever they’re worth:

      If he wakes up when you shake him awake, then maybe that’s the best solution for now, except maybe you add a rule that when you shake him awake, he has to get up on his feet right at that moment–no laying there or laying back down after you walk away. (and if it were me, if he does go back to sleep, is late and I had to drive him to school, he would have to pay me “taxi fare”–Maybe you can find out what an uber or lyft would cost from your house to school (or an equivalent mileage) and charge him that. If he doesn’t have any money, tell him that’s okay, he can pawn something to pay you, or do chores in an amount equal to the hourly rate.) I have found that often kids find new ways of doing things if the consequences of staying the same wind up being too painful. In other words, if he has to pay for his decision to be late, I’m betting he’s going to be much more inventive about coming up with ways to get up and stay up so can avoid those consequences.

      Another idea is to see if his high school will consider doing a partial schedule, e.g., Talk to the school counselor about the possibility of scheduling all his core classes later in the day at school and then maybe do some of his other classes online. That way, he can sleep in and won’t miss his classes that count the most on his transcripts. But in this scenario, he’d need to figure out how he’d get to school. (And this scenario doesn’t build in tools and techniques that he’ll need to be able to hold down a job in the future.)

      Which brings me to what I think is the most important thing: preparing him for adulthood. Somehow you need to shift this to make him see this is HIS problem, not just yours so that he can a) see it as a problem and b) be involved in the solving of the problem and c) feel the sting of the consequences if he doesn’t.

      Hang in there and good luck!

      Joyce Mabe
      Parenting Coach, school counselor, author, mom of adult son with ADHD

    • #61932

      Have you tried giving him an air purifier? Just an idea.
      I was like that, except I am female and we didn’t have so many distracting gadgets back then. Fortunately, we lived close to the school (for that last-minute dash) and I was too involved in activities (guilt trip) to miss too much. I’m thinking an air purifier, or even a fan, might have helped. One year for Christmas I was given an alarm clock with really big (distracting) red numbers and no volume control. (No other gifts, not even socks.) Not only did that not work, it and my level of non-sleep reminded me constantly of how horrible I was.
      Enough said, thanks.

    • #61960

      Joyce: Yes, the therapy I think helped him realize it’s his problem, not ours. However, he constantly asks us for help in solving this problem (which mostly consists of him saying “No, that won’t work”). As for Uber, I was actually considering that the other day. I mean, I don’t work until later in the morning, so I can take him to school. But the argument is why should I? He will eventually need to be able to get up for 8am classes in college and when he works. As for when it’s something fun – it’s still difficult and we still have to go in his room a few times.

      Bert: He does have an air purifier and an overhead fan that both run every night. Although I’m unsure why you think it will help him wake up on time unless it’s to help him go to sleep so he does wake up. He grew up with both of them, so just hearing them should lull him to sleep (although they don’t). I turn them off in the morning, hoping that will jar him awake slowly. It doesn’t.

    • #61964

      I don’t know the cause, but there is definitely a family history of this for me. My dad and his brother were both IMPOSSIBLE to wake up. This was in the 60’s, so there weren’t a lot of options for schooling, and they both ended up dropping out of high school. They ended up working jobs on night shifts (dad was a cop after getting his GED, Uncle worked maintenance for airlines). They both had fulfilling family lives, although with upside-down sleep schedules. Maybe there’s a medical solution or psychological one, but I know for me, trying to go to bed early just doesn’t work. I can get up but it takes 2 alarm clocks and lots of time for “snooze” built in.

      Maybe what your son needs is to adapt the world to accommodate this “disability.” There’s online schooling now that allows kids to get a high school diploma. If being at school is important to him, then yes, he needs to get up. But if not, look at the long term. He can get a diploma and get into college, and no, he doesn’t have to get up for 8 am college classes. I have a BS in engineering and I only had 1 8 o’clock in 4 years. More and more colleges are going to online classes or evening classes. There will always be a need for people who can work at odd hours (cops, firefighters, doctors, nurses, air traffic controllers, electronic technicians, gas station attendants, etc etc). He’ll be ok.

      You need to be able to get this stress out of your life. best of luck to you 🙂

    • #62076

      Teenagers sleep patterns are naturally shifted about 2 hours due to the developmental changes they undergo. If he’s not starting sleep at about 11pm or before then his sleep cycle is likely disrupted. Going past a normal waking time, common for teens, means they miss the body’s natural waking process and feel very sluggish. One option here is to focus on his waking routine, diet and exercise, try to limit screen time especially gaming after 8pm. Lots of love, listening and perhaps incentives to get out of the house and do interesting things that burn off energy and bring personal satisfaction can help. Finding a reason to get up helps with morning motivation.

      One other point about boundaries. Consider not giving him lifts to school. It’s his responsibility to get his own bus. If you bail him out, he has even less reason to get up earlier because he knows it’s not important for him to care as much as he needs to. Remember, the school has rules, it’s not cruel to let your child experience the consequences of personal accountability!!!

      Hope this helps,

      Coaching Psychologist,

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by garyhbradley.
    • #62114
      Penny Williams

      Some individuals just really struggle with waking and with early morning hours.

      Here are some more ideas to potentially help him wake:

      Iced Marbles, Dog Kisses, and Other Creative Ways to Get Your Kid Out of Bed

      Apps That Might Make You a Morning Person After All

      Since he’s a teen, I’d start working through different ideas to find something that works for him. He will have to do this on his own before long, and it’s crucial to being able to function on his own.

      My son is 14. We have a deal for mornings: if he gets up when I ask to get dressed and get his medication, he can go back to bed until 10 minutes before we leave, when he does his hygiene and gets his shoes and socks on and gets in the car. That gives him 20-30 minutes to kind of lay around and wake up more. It works for him. However, I’m still what gets him out of bed. I need to be better about making him use an alarm clock and starting to learn to get up on his own, for sure.

      ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

    • #62913

      My 18 year old daughter always comes home after school and takes naps, usually from 4 to 6 everyday. She still goes to bed between 10 and 11, but get’s up at 7:00 am with the rest of the family. For your son, I would look into getting his schedule changed so that he doesn’t have a first and maybe even a second period. My neighbor’s son had similar issues and the son researched what was best for him. He ended up going to an independent-study school associated with our school district where he only needed to check in with his one teacher once a week. He received packets of homework on a weekly schedule, completed them on his own time, and ended up graduating 6 months ahead of his graduating class. He is now a photographer. Find your son’s strengths and what motivated him. Have him research what possibilities or alternatives there are for both his high school and college education. Good Luck!

    • #63175
      Lori N

      This sounds a lot like me growing up and some still today. This may not work since you said that he incorporates everything into his dreams but does your son take medication? I ended up setting my alarm clock an hour before I had to get, woke just enough to take my meds and then went back to sleep. I had a second alarm clock set just in case but typically my meds would kick in about 15 minutes before the alarm would go off and I was able to get up easier. Good luck!

    • #64325

      We give a 20 mg Ritalin to our daughter about an hour before she has to get up (in the dark with few words). This gives her the boost she needs. We also bought a Phillips alarm clock that slowly lights up. The combo has been a big,big help. Good luck!

    • #64326

      My son was the same, so we put him on a 504 at school, and put all of his core classes after 10am. If he couldn’t get up for his first two classes, he was excused unless I told the school otherwise. If he missed core classes, he had to face the school’s consequences. I had to give up lots of “control” and let him figure it out. I shook him awake and gave him his meds before I left for work. Then I just let it go. Once I got used to letting him control his actions, my stress was so much lower! He started college this year and is doing great. I agree with other posts about adjusting your school or work schedule to meet your sleep patterns. It makes life so much easier for everyone! Good luck!

    • #64339

      This happens to me (33) when I’m not strict about sleep. It doesn’t happen when I’m camping, so I figured it’s the light. Not looking at screens after sunset (or having Flux or some app that turns the screen red) helps, having it really dark when I go to sleep helps (I noticed that I can’t sleep when the moon is full – so I have to block it out), and having lots of natural light in the morning helps (although if it gets light but I go back to sleep, I’m even more of a morning zombie and part of the year getting up that early doesn’t make sense).

    • #64342

      Our son used a dawn simulator–a light that gradually went on and bumped up his serotonin. (We used the same brand that the National Institute of Mental Health used in their research on seasonal affective disorder.) I’d say worry about your current situation. Son took mo early morning college classes and then got a job that didn’t start real early in the morning. Can your son wake up enough to take a caffeine tablet or drink some coffee on his own?

    • #64359

      Try CLOCKY! It is loud, rolls around the room, has flashing lights. It has been our life saver for our high schooler that needs to wake up at 5:15am.

    • #64500

      I’ll bet you get another headache every time someone offers a solution with the sentence beginning, “Have you tried…?”. I know I get stressed when I seek advice after a prolonged period of attempted solutions and someone from the “outside” begins venturing. For example, as a caregiver and trying to arrest a bad scratching problem with my “charge”, I put together a chronological list of trial and errors to present to the next dermatologist or professional.

      With that said, I offer something for you that has helped me, and I underline, me! I found I had to change my own expectations of others in order to deal effectively with employees, employers, family and especially now, my father who is 99 and has dementia. What an incredible and rewarding learning curve to enjoy the benefits of realigning my expectations of others. Please, understand the art of expectations of others and consider changing your expectations of him.

      PLAN to take him to school; everyday. Expect him to want to sleep in. When he does find the way to make the school bus, isn’t that a great opportunity to find a suitable reward? No more fighting the inevitable. No more stress of preparing an unused “launching pad” beforehand. How ’bout his own peer pressure? How many students or friends know he can not make the school bus? What kind of ridicule or kidding does he face in school? Wow! Change his outlook of himself and your expectation of his performance.

      In time maybe, and just maybe, he might perform a better behavior for the right reasons, but they must be his reasons. Tying incentives into performance is an old practice that works, even if that reward is a small raise done with a sincere recognition and maybe especially if that reward is love, respect and appreciation from family and friends.

      I know all too well…. this writing simply helps me to reaffirm a practice I never want to forget. One that I failed miserably early and administered way late. I’ve got the grey hairs to prove it!

      Two cents, but Much Regard for your continuing practices and honest communication, Joe

    • #64556

      Been there, done that, bought the tshirt. Our unwakeable highschooler is now 22 and let me just say, he’s amazing. Here’s what we did. In 9th & 10th, we woke him up everyday. Then in 11th grade we started to have concerns about the future just like you’re having. We tried the sonic boom clock but it only woke everyone else up and not him. He was responsible for taking his brother & a neighbor to school so I continued to wake him up because I didn’t think his brother & the neighbor should have to suffer the consequence of being late. However,on occasion throughout 11th grade, he diddn’t have to take anyone to school so we used these days as a trial run for him being responsible to get himself up. We told him well In advance that he needed to get himself up. We set him up for success by helping him get ready the night before and going to bed at a decent time. We set several alarms. At least three. And two of them required that he get up to turn them off. We also discovered that the fan he had on in his room was just loud enough to keep him from hearing any of his alarms so we tried turning it off on the nights he was getting himself up in the morning. He knew ahead of time that if he did not get up we would not wake him up and that he would have to suffer the consequences of being late to school. Sometimes he got up and totally surprised us but other times he was late. It was hard to let go and allow the consequences to happen but by the time senior year rolled around he had enough practice and enough consequences that we knew it was time to make him responsible to get up every day on his own. Some days he did really well and others he did not but once he suffered the consequences at school on several occasions he began to wake himself up on his own, on time. It wasn’t pretty and he was often in a rush but he did get up on his own. Even now going to college he still wakes up late sometimes but instead of getting mad at us he gets mad at himself and realizes that it’s time to switch the sound on his alarm. He can’t leave it on the same sound more than 2 or 3 days in a row because his brain will get used to it and not wake him up anymore. I don’t know what will work for your son but that’s what we did and he now gets himself up and figures out what works and what doesn’t on his own. Good luck and just keep trying different things until he gets better and wakes up on his own.

    • #64561

      I wonder if there might be something more like avoidance? My brother (ADHD) would sleep through the bus every day. I went to another school at the time. But, a friend of mine mentioned that my brother was getting into trouble on the bus and seemed extra hyper. I mentioned this to him and he said he hated the bus — being in a close space with no escape and so many kids made him feel unable to be in control, and they the driver got on his case for how he behaved on the bus. So, it might be worth exploring if this is a bus/transition/1st class of the day issue versus a sleeping issue.

    • #64565

      Awe man, this is a hard one! I’m 36 and I still struggle in the mornings… I often late in high school, and even a bit in college. I hate to admit it, but facing the stress of the consequences of my habits is what helps me break the pattern. I.E. – getting in trouble in school, with a professor, or getting in trouble at work. I still haven’t found my golden solution.

      However, I do find it helpful to set multiple alarms with different sounds on my phone. I also use an app that goes off as soon as it detects that you are in a light enough pattern of sleep to wake you up. “Sleep Cycle” is what I use currently, and it has a basic free option. If I set my alarm to go off at 7:00AM, it will start trying to sense when I’m in the right cycle to wake between 6:30AM and 7:00AM. This usually wakes me up enough to take my morning medicine that helps me to get going.

      I’ll be candid and still rely on some help from my mom when I was at home, my sister in college (we were roommates), and now my fiance during those times I go through a period of insomnia. Either way… it’s certainly rough.

    • #64571

      When your son had the sleep study, was he diagnosed with any type of official sleep disorder? The symptoms you describe, including the severe headache, could be Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Both my son’s have that type of Circadian Rhythm Disorder. They both were born with it but sometimes it can be mild but become severe when adolsencence starts. Keeping good sleep hygene is critical to seeing any improvement in sleep cycle & physical side effects. Here is a website for further info:

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