Updated at: 11-03-2022 - By: Jane Brody

The years spent in adolescence are formative. As a child grows into an adult, substantial changes occur in the brain and body that impact emotions, personality, relationships with friends and family, and academic performance.

Getting enough sleep is critical at this time, as it helps teens function at their peak potential. According to studies, many teenagers are getting less sleep than they need.

A night’s sleep for teens should be between eight and ten hours, say the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Teenagers who get the necessary amount of sleep each night are better able to maintain their physical, mental, and academic health.

Teens, on the other hand, confront a variety of obstacles to getting a good night’s rest. Teens and their parents can come up with a plan to ensure that they receive the sleep they need by recognizing the problems they face.

Why Is Sleep Important For Teens?

People of all ages need to get enough sleep. Although substantial mental, physical, social, and emotional growth is dependent on enough sleep for teens, this isn’t always the case for adults.

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Thinking and Academic Achievement

The benefits of sleep for the brain include improved concentration, recall, and analytical thinking. It sharpens one’s thinking and helps one focus on the most critical aspects of what one is studying. Creative thought can be sparked by a good night’s sleep. A good night’s rest is crucial for kids, whether they’re preparing for an exam or practicing a musical instrument.

It’s simple to see why kids who don’t get enough sleep are more prone to tiredness and lack of focus, which can have a negative impact on their academic performance.

Emotional Health

As we all know, a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on mood, resulting in increased irritation and heightened emotional responses. For teenagers who are adjusting to increasing independence, responsibility, and new social contacts, the long-term implications can be considerably larger.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased likelihood of interpersonal conflict and more significant mental health issues.

Sleep deprivation in youth has been shown to raise the risk of suicide in teens with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Adolescents who get enough sleep may be less likely to develop mental health issues or suffer from their symptoms.

Physical Health and Development

The body’s nearly every system benefits from a good night’s sleep. It boosts the immune system, aids in hormone regulation, and promotes muscle and tissue regeneration through these mechanisms.

Sleep deprivation can have a severe impact on adolescent physical development. According to one study, adolescents who don’t get enough sleep develop an abnormal metabolic profile that increases their chance of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the future.

Decision-Making and Risky Behavior

The frontal lobe, a region of the brain important for controlling impulsive behavior, can be harmed by sleep deprivation. Teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to participate in high-risk activities like texting while driving, riding a bicycle without a helmet, and not wearing a seatbelt. This is not surprising, according to multiple studies. A lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of drug and alcohol usage, smoking, hazardous sexual conduct, fighting, and carrying a weapon in adolescents, as well.

A teen’s social and academic life can be significantly harmed by behavioral issues, which can manifest themselves in a variety of ways.

Accidents and Injuries

Sleep deprivation in adolescents can increase the risk of injury and even death. There is a high danger of accidents resulting from drowsy driving. Study after study has shown that sleep deprivation has a similar effect on reaction times as a considerable alcohol intake. The dangers of sleepy driving are exacerbated in teens because of their inexperience behind the wheel and their tendency to become distracted while driving.

Are Teens in America Getting Enough Sleep?

The majority of kids in the United States are not obtaining the necessary 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, according to the vast majority of studies. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 Sleep in America Poll, 45% of teens say they receive less than eight hours of sleep each night.

The issue may be worsening. From 2007 to 2013, approximately 69% of high school students were found to get less than six hours of sleep each night, according to four different nationwide polls. 23.8 percent of teens are estimated to suffer from sleeplessness.

Inadequate sleep is more common in girls than boys in adolescence. Teenagers in their late teens say they sleep less than their younger counterparts. Teens who identify as Black, Asian, or multiracial are the most likely to sleep less than eight hours a night, according to studies that have been conducted.

Why Is It Hard for Teens To Get Good Sleep?

Sleep deprivation isn’t just a problem for teenagers. This difficulty is caused by a variety of circumstances, and these factors can differ from teen to teen.

Delayed Sleep Schedule and School Start Times

Adolescence is a time when it’s common to be a “night owl,” sleeping in late and waking up early. According to experts, teens’ circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles are affected by this biological motivation.

For one thing, teens have a slower sleep drive, which means they don’t get weary until later in the night. Second, melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep, is produced later in the day.

Many teens would get eight or more hours of sleep a night if they were permitted to sleep when they wanted, but school start times in most school systems require teens to wake up considerably earlier in the morning than they would if they were allowed to sleep when they wanted. A common problem for many teenagers is that they are unable to fall asleep early enough to receive the eight hours of sleep they need and still make it to school on time.

Teenagers who have less sleep during the week may try to make up for it by sleeping in on the weekends, but this can lead to an even worsening of their sleep delays and irregular patterns.

Time Pressure

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to be overburdened. To name a few of the responsibilities that may compete for their time and attention: academics; jobs; housework; friends; hobbies; community involvement; and sports.

Many teenagers don’t get enough sleep because they’re trying to cram too much into their days. Late-night study sessions or weekend hangouts with friends can encourage their night owl routine.

The overwhelming pressure to perform while juggling so many activities can be exhausting, and exhaustion is known to exacerbate sleep disorders like insomnia.

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Use of Electronic Devices

Nearly all teens have at least one electronic gadget in their bedroom throughout the night, according to a poll conducted by the 2014 Sleep in America Poll.

Late-night screen time might lead to sleep issues. Disrupted and fragmented sleep may result from kids’ use of mobile devices and the constant stream of notifications they receive. A lack of melatonin production may also be a result of cell phone light exposure.

Sleep Disorders

The asleep issues may be to blame for the restless nights of certain teenagers. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can afflict adolescents, causing them to stop breathing repeatedly while they sleep. Disrupted sleep and drowsiness are common side effects of OSA.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and narcolepsy (an illness that affects the sleep-wake cycle) are two examples of sleep disorders that affect adolescents, albeit they are less common.

Mental Health Problems

Anxiety and sadness, two common mental health issues, can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep for anyone, young or old. Both sleep deprivation and mental distress can be caused by insufficient sleep, producing a bidirectional relationship that can worsen both.

Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder (ASD), can make it difficult for adolescents to get a good night’s sleep. In addition, it is possible that sleep deprivation is a factor in the severity of these disorders.

How Can Teens Get Better Sleep?

Starting with a visit to the doctor can be a good place to begin for teenagers who are struggling with sleep issues. Your child’s pediatrician can investigate the underlying reasons for their symptoms and devise a treatment plan that is both effective and personalized.

Medications may be explored in some circumstances, but in the vast majority of cases, they are not necessary for adolescents to improve their sleep.

Adolescents would benefit from taking stock of and making adjustments to their sleep hygiene, which includes their bedroom set-up and sleep routines. The following are some helpful hints for getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Assisting yourself to obtain eight hours of sleep each night, no matter what day it is.
  • Developing a pre-bedtime ritual that is both relaxing and effective can help you get to sleep faster.
  • Preferably in the afternoon or at night, limiting your intake of coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
  • Avoid checking electronic gadgets in the middle of the night by putting them away at least 30 minutes before going to bed and setting them to silent mode.
  • A supportive mattress that is appropriate for you is the first step in setting up a comfortable bed.
  • Remember to bring along a comfy pillow.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom at a comfortable level.

It has been shown that adults who receive cognitive-behavioral treatment for insomnia (CBT-I), a type of talk therapy for sleep difficulties, benefit from making changes to their sleep hygiene, and this may also be true for adolescents. CBT-I works by altering unhelpful sleep-related beliefs and habits and putting them into action.

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How Can Parents Help Teens Get Better Sleep?

Many parents begin by asking their teenagers about their sleep habits since research shows that many parents are unaware that their children are experiencing sleep issues of some kind.

As a parent, you can urge your teen to consult a doctor and work with them to improve their sleep habits at the same time. Some studies have shown that teens who have a strict bedtime receive more sleep and are less prone to daytime tiredness.

Parents can also work with their local school system to request later start times. Many school districts have tried delayed starts, and the results have been positive in terms of student attendance and academic achievement.

As parents, you may help their kids avoid overscheduling and responsibilities that might cause stress and compromise their ability to get appropriate sleep by working with them.

Preventing sleep deprivation in teenagers – tips for parents

When it comes to nighttime, don’t argue with your teen! Instead, talk to them about it. Come up with a plan to obtain more sleep each night as a group. The following are some of the suggestions that have been made:

  • On weekends, let your child sleep in a little extra.
  • Every Sunday, set an example by going to bed early. If your child has a late night on Sunday and early morning on Monday, he or she will be tired for the start of the school week.
  • Determine acceptable time limits for any stimulating activity, such as homework or screen time, with your child. Encourage your child to read as a way to wind down at night.
  • If at all possible, try to avoid scheduling your child for early morning appointments, classes, or training sessions.
  • Your adolescent can benefit from some assistance in planning their after-school activities so that they have more time for rest and sleep.
  • If you’re concerned about your teenager’s commitments, take a look at their weekly itinerary.
  • Assist them in reducing their workloads if they are so inclined.
  • To assist replenish their batteries, encourage your teen to take an afternoon sleep after school if they can.
  • Together, you and your teen can modify your teen’s biological clock. Consult with your doctor first if you have any concerns.

Top sleep tips for teenagers

The typical adolescent brain prefers to stay up late and sleep the next day, which is difficult to control. In order to change your body clock, it will take some time. The following are some of the suggestions that have been made:

  • Take a bath and sip a cup of hot milk before going to sleep, or try meditation or mindfulness activities to help you wind down. Gentle yoga may also be beneficial.
  • For at least an hour before going to bed, avoid any activity that causes your mind to race, such as watching television, listening to loud music, or doing homework.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks, at night.
  • The best way to sleep at night is in a dark bedroom. The sleep-wake cycle of your brain is heavily influenced by the amount of light that enters your eyes. Avoid watching television or using smartphones straight before bed. To assist your brain to wake up in the morning, expose your eyes to a lot of light.
  • For the best results, stick to the same nighttime routine for at least four weeks in a row.
  • After four weeks, you can begin your sleep ritual a few minutes earlier than usual (for example, by 10 minutes). Give it a try for a week.
  • Add 10 minutes to your bedtime each week until you reach your ideal time.
  • Increase your physical activity during the day to help you sleep better at night.
  • Set the scene for a good night’s sleep.
  • Establish a consistent schedule for waking up.
  • Weekends are the worst times to stay up late. Your hard work will be undone if you stay up late.
  • When it comes to sleep, even 30 minutes a night can make a major difference. However, it may take up to six weeks for you to see the benefits of obtaining more sleep.

Teenage sleep deprivation – other issues to consider

If you’re still having trouble sleeping despite your best efforts, here are some suggestions:

  • Evaluate the quality of your sleep. For example, a noisy bedroom, a bumpy mattress, or the habit of lying awake and fretting can all interfere with your ability to get a good night’s rest.
  • Getting ready for sleep may require mastering a relaxation technique.
  • Avoid caffeine-containing foods or beverages after dinner. Coffee, tea, cola drinks, and chocolate are all included in this category.
  • Don’t take recreational drugs (such as booze, smoke, and marijuana) because they can disrupt your sleep and cause you to wake up feeling groggy and exhausted.
  • Consult your primary care physician if self-help methods fail to improve your nightly sleep quota.

Why Teens Need More Sleep Than Younger Kids

So, how many hours of sleep every night is considered adequate? A teen’s sleep requirement has increased by around an hour since they were 10, according to Johns Hopkins physician Michael Crocetti, M.D., M.P.H. Why? According to Crocetti, “teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation. An extra hour of sleep is beneficial for a child’s growing brain and body. Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from mental health issues including depression and substance abuse.

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Teenagers and Sleep: Help Them Get What They Need

Parenting advice from Sterni and Crocetti suggests that parents take their teenage children’s sleep habits carefully. Begin by setting an example of good sleep hygiene by maintaining a regular sleep pattern, reducing evening coffee consumption, and engaging in regular physical activity. Teen-specific and time-tested advice is also offered.

Make an appointment with your doctor. Sleep apnea, insomnia, and circadian rhythm problems are among the most prevalent teen sleep disorders, and pediatricians can educate teens on how much sleep they should get as well as prescribe healthy sleep habits.

Begin the day with a smile. Breakfast eaten in the fresh air or in front of a bright window can help teens better regulate their circadian rhythms, making it simpler for them to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night.

Aim to strengthen the relationship. Ask your adolescent, after he or she has slept well, how he or she felt the day of the test or game. Help him understand the importance of getting adequate sleep and how much is too much.

Car privileges and sound sleep should be linked. Teens who are sleep-deprived are more likely to be involved in mishaps. I don’t let my teenager drive to school in the morning when he doesn’t get enough sleep, adds Crocetti.

Involve your teenagers in the process of revising their schedules. Help your kid locate an earlier time to start schoolwork if he usually does it after nightly activities. If you have a hectic schedule, you may have to cut back.

Encourage your children to take asleep in the afternoon. Teenagers who are exhausted may benefit from a short nap before dinner. These are better than sleeping in, which might mess with their internal clock and disrupt their sleep patterns.

The bedroom should be devoid of electronic devices. Technology use at night reduces teens’ sleep duration and exposes them to melatonin-suppressing lights, making it more difficult for them to fall asleep.

Schools should be encouraged to implement later start times. At 8:30 am, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools begin their day. Talk to your school board about this.

Keep an eye out for the seasonal shift that occurs during the summer. Summertime sleep schedule shifts are common among teenagers. As long as they don’t push bedtime too much past the one they had during the school year, Stern urges parents to follow. School-year start-up concerns for teens whose schedules change dramatically include moodiness and excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as difficulty returning to an adequate school sleep routine. Sleep specialists may be necessary for those who have seen major adjustments in their sleep patterns in September.

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