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Teens and Sleep: The Importance of Bed Time

Teens and Sleep Header

Sleep is extremely important for a teen’s wellbeing and health. Sleep is important in managing stress and can even affect eating habits. Without an adequate amount of sleep, first a teen will exhibit moodiness, irritability and a lack of motivation. If lack of sleep continues, then slowed speech, apathy, flattened emotional responses and impaired memory can occur. A great lack of sleep may even lead to the person falling into micro sleeps which can be dangerous when going about daily activities. Most individuals require six to eight hours of sleep. However, the amount of necessary sleep does differ depending on the person. Teenagers in particular are a group of the population that is at risk for sleep deprivation. They have to deal with school, homework, sports and more. Many times, the daily activities of teens end up reducing the number of sleep hours available each night.

Sleeping Patterns of Teens

Young Girl Sleeping on Mattress

Each teenager has an internal clock that dictates the best sleep cycles. During the teen years, this internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, changes. Prior to the teen years, children would naturally fall asleep anywhere between 8 and 9 PM. However, the clock changes and teens will naturally fall asleep much later, from 11 PM and onwards. Studying late or staying up to socialize will affect the internal clock further. To be fully functional, most teens require nine hours of sleep. Therefore, the sleep cycle changes from 8 PM to 5 AM to 11 PM to 8 AM.

  • Teens and Sleep – Learn about sleep and the effects of sleep on teens.
  • Teen Sleep: Why is Your Teen so Tired? – This page for parents provides information on sleep in tweens and teens.
  • Adolescent Sleep – Teens need more sleep. This page provides information getting enough sleep and encouraging teens and adolescents to do the same.
  • Teenage Sleeping Patterns – Some of the sleep patterns of teenagers are caused by behavioral problems.

Recommended Hours of Sleep

Nine hours of sleep is recommended for a teenager, although the actual number will vary depending on the individual. Some may require 30 minutes more while others require 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep a night. Most teens do not get nearly enough sleep, with about 90% getting less than the recommended number of hours, taken from a study by the Journal of School Health. Other studies have shown that only about 15% of all teens get about 8.5 hours of sleep each night. Interestingly enough, the National Sleep Foundation poll in 2006 showed that about half of all teenagers have depressive moods. These moods are most likely due to a lack of sleep, as more than 73% of the individuals that claimed depression reported that they didn’t get enough sleep each night.

  • Sleep, Learning and Memory – Learning is much easier when you get enough sleep. Learn more on this page.
  • Start Time Study (PDF) – This page for parents provides information on sleep in tweens and teens.
  • Adolescent Sleep Needs and Patterns (PDF) – Teens require more sleep than children. This study discusses some of the reasons.

Sleep Disorders

There are some disorders that cause a lack of sleep and are not related to staying up late or socializing. These disorders may cause a disruption in sleep and can range from teeth grinding to night terrors. In many cases, insomnia is due to a mood disorder or other underlying health problem. By treating the depression, anxiety, emotional stress, heart disease, asthma or other health issue, the insomnia will go away. However it can take some time to determine what the underlying cause of insomnia is. Some breathing sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea; can be fixed with over-the-counter products. This type of disorder occurs when the brain does not control breathing properly while a person is sleeping, and low breathing or breathing pauses can last from several seconds to several minutes. In many cases, a behavioral change such as changing to sleeping on one's side, can stop these types of disorders, although surgery and strengthening the muscles in the throat and nose can also successfully treat the disease. Another disorder that can be treated is restless legs syndrome, in which the legs move in order to stop an odd or uncomfortable sensation. This is a type of neurological disorder. In many instances, stretching, movement, iron supplements and medication can be enough to treat this sleep disorder and allow the individual to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep.



  • Common Sleep Problems – This page of information is written especially for teenagers and discusses some of the sleep problems popular in the age group.
  • What is Sleep Apnea? – This page discusses this specific sleep problem which can cause serious problems if not treated.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome – Relieving uncomfortableness is extremely important in achieving a good nights sleep.

Negative Effects to Sleep Deprivation

Teen Age Girl Wakes to Alarm Clock

There are many negative effects to not getting enough sleep. In teenagers this can lead to skin problems such as acne, as sleep does help regulate hormone production. Importantly, sleep deprivation reduces the teenager’s ability to concentrate, learn, solve problems and listen. These are all important tasks needed to attend school and may be the reason why a teen has low grades or problems at school. These difficulties may be due to drowsiness during the day and can even lead to individuals dropping off to sleep during class or activities. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain as those that do not get enough sleep tend to eat a lot more fried foods and sweets. It also leads to very aggressive behavior when interacting with both friends and adults as sleep deprivation affects moods and can even dampen them so much to remove many emotions and reactions.

  • Sleep deprivation may be undermining teen health – Your body heals while you sleep, so it makes sense that a lack of sleep could negatively affect your immune system.
  • Sleep Patterns in Children and Teenagers Could Indicate Risk for Depression – This article shows the connection between sleep patterns in kids and their mental health.
  • From ZZZ’s to A’s - Adolescents and Sleep – This article outlines some of the patterns found when researching memory and sleep.
  • The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Brain and Behavior – Another study is outlined on this page comparing the effects of sleep deprivation to brain patterns.

Solutions to Sleep Problems

In order to reduce sleep deprivation symptoms, it is important to make sleep a priority to teenagers. Short naps at the right time of day, not too close to bedtime, can help a teenager work more efficiently. Reducing the intake of caffeine before bedtime is also important as many teenagers will drink coffee or soda to stay up later at night. One should stop drinking or eating caffeine after 4 PM to get a good night’s sleep. Also, one should ensure that the room is comfortable for sleeping; ensure that the room temperature is not too cold, the room is dark and make sure that bright light can get in during the morning which tells the body it is time to wake up. Establish a normal bedtime and wake time, and stick to the schedule, even on weekends. This makes it easier to fall asleep in the evening. By following the same schedule each evening, it is possible to teach the body to recognize when it is time to go to sleep, and teenagers will begin to naturally feel sleepy.

  • Schools Waking Up to Teens’ Unique Sleep Needs – Teens sleep requirements are beginning to be noticed by high schools and universities alike.
  • Helping Teens Make Peace with Sleep – Sometimes the hardest part of getting teens to get enough sleep is getting them to go to sleep in the first place.
  • The Sleepy Teenager – This article discusses some of the reasons teens feel drowsy and don't get enough sleep.
  • Teenagers and Sleep – Causes of sleep deprivation and some ideas for solutions to this problem are listed on this page.


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