Teenagers and sleep
Starting around puberty, kids start getting tired later at night. While it might seem like they need less sleep, in fact, teens need about 9 hours of sleep at night. Unfortunately, most teens do not get the sleep they need.
What Makes it Hard for Teens to Sleep?
Several factors make it hard for teens to get the sleep they need:
- Schedule. The average teen gets tired around 11 p.m. and has to get up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. to get to school on time. This makes it impossible to get 9 hours of sleep. Some high schools have changed their hours to start later. Students' grades and athletic performance at these schools improved as a result. Just like their parents, many teens are juggling busy schedules. Weeknight school and social activities cut into teens' quality sleep time. They get home later and have a harder time winding down.
- Homework. The push to succeed can backfire when kids sacrifice sleep to do homework. After a night of too little sleep, your teen may not be able to focus in class or absorb new material. Teens need both work and rest to keep their minds sharp.
- Texting. Phones make poor bedfellows, particularly when they go off in the middle of the night. Teens may think every text message has to be answered right away, no matter how late. Even early evening texts can disrupt sleep. Hearing constant text alerts can make it impossible to wind down and relax into sleep.
Sleep and Teen Health
Like adults, teens who do not get enough sleep are at risk for a number of problems in school and with their health, including:
- Depression and low self-esteem
- Sleepiness and trouble concentrating
- Decline in school performance and grades
- Moodiness and trouble getting along with family and friends
- Greater risk of car accidents
- Tendency to overeat and gain weight
What Parents can do
Teach your teen ways to get a good night's sleep. Then be a good role model and practice what you preach.
- Make rules about bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night can make it easier for your teen to wind down and drift off. Set a bedtime for your teen, and yourself, and make sure you stick with it.
- Limit nighttime activities. Keep an eye on the number of nights your teen stays at school late or goes out with friends. Consider limiting the number of weeknights your child stays out past dinner.
- Offer homework support. Talk to teens about their class load and homework. If they have a heavy semester, help them schedule homework time and limit other activities. Make sure your kids have a good, quiet place to study.
- Set technology boundaries. Talk to your teen about text messages. Ask how they feel if they do not respond to a text right away, then set a time when texting has to stop. You might make a rule that no devices are allowed in the bedroom after a certain hour.
- Promote relaxing activities. In the hour or so before bedtime, encourage your child to do something relaxing. This might mean reading a book or taking a warm shower. Encourage your teen to explore ways to unwind so sleep can come.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if your teen is not sleeping well and it interferes with their health or ability to do daily activities.
de Zambotti M, Gkoldstone A, Colrain IM, Baker FC. Insomnia disorder in adolescence: diagnosis, impact, and treatment. Sleep Med Rev. 2018;39:12-24. PMID: 28974427
Harris KR. Adolescent health. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2021. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier 2021:1238-1241.
Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM. Normal sleep and pediatric sleep disorders. In: Marcdante KJ, Kliegman RM, eds. Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 15.
Pierce B, Brietzke SE. Nonobstructive pediatric sleep disorders. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 185.
Styne DM, Grumbach MM. Physiology and disorders of puberty. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 25.
Last reviewed on: 8/2/2020
Reviewed by: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, VA New Jersey Health Care System, Clinical Assistant Professor, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.