How Much Sleep Does Your Teen Need?

Teenage girl (13-14) asleep on sofa
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Sleep is important at every stage of life, but it is especially crucial during the teenage years. When we sleep, the body performs essential functions to repair tissues and releases hormones that fuel teenage growth, brain circuitry, and sexual maturation. 

Between the ages of 14- to 17-years-old, teens require eight to 10 hours of sleep a night. However, research shows only 15% of teens get at least 8.5 hours of sleep most school nights, and most teens only average 7.4 hours per night. This is far short of the desired quota for healthy teens.

Biological Sleep Shift

Sleep during the teenage years can be problematic for a number of reasons. Bedtimes tend to get pushed later due to more activities and homework and schools tend to start earlier in later grades making for earlier wake times.

This change in sleep patterns also has biological roots. During adolescence, sleep patterns shift toward delayed sleep and wake times due to changes in circadian rhythms that delay the release of melatonin in the brain, making it difficult for most teens to fall asleep before 11 p.m.

In addition to biology, researchers have identified five other factors that contribute to a sleep deficit in teens:

  • extracurricular activities
  • excessive homework load
  • evening use of electronic media
  • caffeine intake
  • early school start times 

This can set up a perfect storm of teens going to bed later but needing to get up earlier on weekdays at the time in their lives that they need an additional couple of hours of sleep. They may oversleep on the weekends to make up for a sleep deficit and may suffer from sleep deprivation during the week.

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Teens

The National Sleep Foundation recommends keeping an eye out for signs of sleep deprivation:

  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Irritability in the afternoon
  • Falling asleep during the day
  • Oversleeping on the weekend
  • Having difficulty remembering or concentrating
  • Waking up often and having trouble going back to sleep

Sleep deprivation can be the cause of extreme moodiness, poor performance in school, and depression. Teens also have a higher risk of having car accidents because of falling asleep behind the wheel.

How to Help Your Teen Get Enough Sleep

Here are a few suggestions to get your teen the sleep they need:

  • Your teen's room needs to be a restful sleep environment.
  • Establish a reasonable bedtime and wake time, and make this consistent throughout the week.
  • Establish a bedtime routine, such as taking a hot bath or quiet activity beforehand.
  • Don't engage in focus activities such as homework in the hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid using electronic devices, such as phones, computers, tablets, and television, an hour before bedtime. The light emitted from the screens can disrupt melatonin production while the onscreen activities can be psychologically stimulating, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • To help your teen avoid stress and worry that may keep them awake, encourage them to have a to-do list or diary where they can note these before bed or when they awake.
  • Encourage your teen to take naps, so long as they are not too long or too close to bedtime.
  • Cut down on caffeine consumption.
  • Don't eat, drink, or exercise within a couple of hours of bedtime.
  • Make sure your teen gets daily exercise, but make sure this is at least two hours before bedtime.
  • See if it's possible for your teen to have a later school starting time that better aligns with natural teen sleep patterns.
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Article Sources

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