How Much Sleep Should A Teen Get?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated April 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

During teenage years, circadian rhythms slow, making it challenging for some to fall asleep before 11 pm. Studies show that over 45% of teens obtain inadequate sleep or experience sleep deprivation. In addition, common circumstantial factors can affect the way teens sleep. Late bedtimes paired with early wakeup times and a change in sleep needs can cause this age group to struggle. That being said, how much sleep should a teenager get? doctors claim that a rapid rate of cognitive development means that teens need 8-10 hours of sleep each night, however many teens report getting under eight hours. 

Adjusting their bedtime routine, practicing sleep hygiene, and speaking with a professional are tools teens can use to improve their quality and amount of sleep each night.

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Difficulty sleeping may affect your mood

How much sleep is enough?

If you're a busy teenager or the parent of a busy teenager, 10 hours of sleep per night may sound difficult to achieve. Many adolescents prioritize schoolwork, social stressors, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities and forget to care for their body's needs. What’s more, it’s common for teens and adults alike to minimize the importance of sleep. Sleep is essential for health and sleep problems or not spending enough time sleeping at night can lead to physical and mental health consequences.

In addition to managing busy schedules, teenagers may find it challenging to fall asleep due to biological differences in circadian rhythms. They may struggle to manage a busy schedule without sacrificing sleep. 

In some cases, teens may live with sleep disorders or mental health conditions that make sleeping difficult. About 23.8% of teens have been diagnosed with insomnia, a sleep disorder that causes difficulty falling and staying asleep. 

Since brain maturation predominantly occurs in early and late adolescents, adequate sleep supports a developing brain and body. Some teenagers may be tempted to catch up by getting more sleep during the weekend. However, according to Time, you cannot make up for lost sleep on weekdays by sleeping on weekends. 

The consequences of chronic sleep loss

CDC analyzed data taken from both middle school populations as well as high schools, and found that a significant number of teens experience short sleep duration. In states that administer the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), an average of 6 out of 10 middle school students got less than the recommended 9 hours, and 7 out of 10 high school students got less than 8 hours. The Center for Disease Control then outlined the risks of insufficient sleep in adolescents.

Poor sleep quality or insufficient sleep may cause difficulty concentrating, and it can impede academic performance and extracurricular activities. Additionally, inadequate sleep may contribute to inflammation, chronic stress, unhealthy diet choices, weakened immune functioning, and the amount of acne a teenager experiences. A lack of sleep can also negatively affect moods increase risk-taking behavior, and contribute to mental health challenges, such as depression.

Teens who struggle to fall asleep may find themselves sleeping at school, feeling fatigued, or struggling to concentrate on homework. They might also have difficulties socializing or feel irritable around family. With all of these potential consequences, it can be beneficial for young adults to establish healthy sleep habits.

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Finding time for sleep

The circadian rhythm acts as a biological clock, utilizing hormones to help us shift from sleep to wakefulness throughout the 24-hour day. Inconsistent sleeping schedules may throw off this clock's functioning, making it challenging to establish a healthy sleep-wake cycle. 

Setting a goal bedtime each day and engaging in a consistent evening routine can make it easier to get enough sleep on school nights. Many may find it helpful to close their blinds and try reading before bed rather than using a device or watching TV. Also, light exposure in the morning can help reset the body to get sleepier at night. There are a few ways that parents and teens may work together to improve sleep duration and quality.

Reducing obligations 

Consider the number of activities you have on your schedule as a teen especially if they are evening activities. Some adolescents are motivated to gain experience in high school to improve their career prospects. Still, it can be beneficial to start practicing a healthy work-life balance while young so you don't experience mental burnout.

Performance and mental health often decline with reduced sleep, so finding a manageable workload may benefit you. If activities and schoolwork cannot be achieved without sacrificing sleep, consider reformatting your schedule or talking to your parent about other options.   

Shorten naps 

Rather than sleeping until noon on the weekends, getting up in the morning and then taking a nap in the middle of the day may be advantageous. According to the Sleep Foundation, naps can effectively reduce fatigue and drowsiness and improve school performance and memory retention. 

The Foundation also states that afternoon naps can improve athletic performance and immune function, reduce stress, and reduce the risk of health problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation. 

To avoid entering a deep sleep cycle during a nap and waking up feeling more fatigued, try to keep your nap around 20 to 30 minutes. If you struggle to fall asleep when trying to nap, you may be dealing with insomnia, anxiety, or another sleep-related issue. 

Parent support 

Parents may help their teens achieve a healthier sleep schedule by encouraging healthy sleep habits. This includes removing technology, such as phones, televisions, and video games, from their teen before bed. Parents can also promote a positive sleeping environment by installing blackout curtains in their child's room, investing in a white noise machine, or setting up a space for homework to be completed outside their child's bedroom. 

See a doctor 

If your teen is not getting enough sleep, a sleep specialist or family health care provider may offer support by providing educational materials or advice on good sleep habits. Find a doctor who specializes in working with teenagers or sleep research. Additionally, your child might be referred for a sleep study. Sleep studies can check for sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, or night terrors that could cause inadequate or little sleep. 

Even if it takes time, finding the right doctor is worth the search. Search for a sleep specialist or someone who can connect with your teen and talk to them about maintaining a sleep schedule, setting a regular bedtime, reducing screen time, and reducing distractions that prevent them from falling asleep. 

Addressing mental health challenges

Inadequate sleep can be a trigger of mental health conditions and a symptom of them. An estimated 75% of people with depression do not get adequate sleep, and other mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder, can also contribute to poor sleep quality. A 2020 study indicates that a specific type of therapy, called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is effective at addressing the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. 

Further research has demonstrated that online CBT can be effective in managing the symptoms of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder. Online therapy from sites like BetterHelp for those over 18 or TeenCounseling for teens 13-19 can be more affordable than in-person counseling, and they do not require a commute to an in-person office. Additionally, your online therapist can provide sleep hygiene tips if you hope to improve your sleep. 

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Difficulty sleeping may affect your mood

Takeaway

It can be essential for teenagers to get enough sleep to avoid negative impacts on mental health, academic and athletic performance, physical health, and alertness. Finding time for more sleep can be challenging, but several steps can be taken to improve sleep quantity and quality.

For example, establishing a regular sleep schedule can reduce disturbances to the circadian rhythm, and eliminating excessive activities can reduce stress and make more time for adequate sleep. If you are a teenager who is chronically deprived of sleep, a therapist can be a beneficial resource for discussing a healthy sleep plan.

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