How Much Sleep Do Teenagers Need?
Updated December 20, 2018
Reviewer Lauren Fawley
It can be concerning to see your teen staying up all hours of the night. After all, they may feel like they are little adults, but their brains are still developing way into their early 20s, so they need more sleep than the typical adult. But, when deadlines like those surrounding papers and homework come due, you may find your teen sacrificing more sleep than he or she should get the work done on time. This is detrimental to your teen in the long run.
How Much Sleep Do Teens Need Each Night?
Studies differ on how much sleep teens should get each night. On average, though, it's safe to say that teens need between eight and ten hours of sleep each night.
That may sound like a lot, especially when compared to the seven or more hours that adults typically need to feel well rested, but keep in mind that teens' brains are still developing. Not only that, but teens also have incredibly busy lives that keep their brains active constantly, and they need to recharge their batteries so that they can keep up. Many teens are balancing schoolwork, the stresses of their home and social lives, part-time jobs, and extracurricular activities. It's a lot to manage.
Out of all of the things that we need to survive - food, water, air, and sleep - sleep is usually the most overlooked when it comes to self-care. However, we shouldn't sacrifice sleep either, as it is just as important as all the rest to ensure you are at your peak performance.
Some teens (and even adults) think they can stay up late all week and then just make up the sleep on the weekends. However, the sleep you make up only accounts for one missed day. So if, for example, you miss two hours a night, every night, for a week, and then you sleep in two hours on Saturday and Sunday, you're still six hours of sleep short for the week.
It can be difficult for a teen to get the proper amount of sleep each night, and the reason may have nothing to do with looming deadlines. In fact, it may not be his fault at all. As it stands, a teen's biological sleep pattern may dictate that he is unable to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. when he used to go to bed around 8:00. And, if you calculate eight to ten hours from there, that means that he would be waking up naturally between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m, not when the typical teen must wake for school.
The Consequences Of Missing A Good Night's Sleep
Missing out on a good night's sleep has the same effect on teens as it does on their parents: they are less able to concentrate and find it harder to listen and solve problems. Another problem for teens is that less sleep can lead to an increase in acne and other skin conditions, as the skin is not able to repair as well when the body is less rested.
Sleep deprivation can also wreak havoc on a person's mood, which is in flux already during the teenage years. A teen who loses sleep is more likely to get frustrated easily or become upset at the littlest things.
All of these consequences can actually become dangerous once you put a teenager behind the wheel. In addition to the risks that come from underage drinking or peer pressure, a sleep-deprived teen is more likely to fall asleep while driving or fail to make the right choices before they get behind the wheel. In other words, they may attempt to drive while feeling frustrated or upset at something that might not have bothered them as deeply if they had gotten the proper amount of sleep.
Teens and Athletics
After reading this, it may seem like teens need to sleep half of their life away, but it's true: teens who play sports need even more sleep than teens who don't - an extra hour, to be exact. In addition to enhancing their level of alertness, having a good amount of sleep also does well for an athlete's reaction time and performance. Additionally, more sleep gives the body more time to repair any injuries the athlete suffered.
Reducing Your Teen's Obligations
Yes, it will look fantastic on your teen's college applications if she can put down that she's involved with student government, drama club, volunteering at the local animal shelter and leading her dance troupe for the fifth year in a row. It can be hard to balance the need to make a great impression on the school of her choice with the negative health (including mental health) consequences of such a busy lifestyle.
Above all, your child's mental health and wellbeing are the most important. If she's able to manage all of these activities - and manages them well - and is enjoying doing them, that's great! If you're getting the feeling that she's so weighed down by everything that it's becoming burdensome and having a negative impact on her sleep, then it may be time to sit down with her. Schedule and decide which things she can cut out while still maintaining a respectable dossier that works better for the both of you.
A lot of students come home from school and take a quick nap. The problem is that "quick" to a teen may mean three hours - and a three-hour nap is more than problematic when trying to get on a normal sleep schedule. A teen on a more regular sleep schedule may not need to nap at all. However, if naps are an absolute must, limit naps to 30 minutes each. This way, she gets a quick refresher, and she will have less trouble falling asleep later on.
Helping Your Teen Get More Sleep
How do you help your teen get some extra hours of sleep? One thing to try is to change your teen's studying location if it is typically in his or her bedroom. One of the reasons why some adults suffer from insomnia is because they use their bedroom for activities other than sleeping. The brain, in turn, does not develop a connection between the bedroom and sleeping. A teen who is studying in his or her bedroom with the music on is not going to see his or her bedroom as a place that is solely for sleep.
Another tip is to help your teen relax before bed to help them feel drowsy enough to fall asleep. Make sure no streetlights are shining into his or her room - get blackout curtains if you have to. Perhaps even consider a white noise machine to help them drift off to sleep.
Studies have shown that the backlight on a phone or PC is enough to keep the brain wired for a while, so you want to power down your electronics and your brain before you're ready to go to bed. This will give your brain enough time to snap out of it and realize it's tired. Therefore, all social communications and studying should cease about an hour before bedtime.
So what should your teen do in that last hour? He or she should use this time to read a book, even if it's studying a textbook. They can also lay around doing absolutely nothing. This is recommended to adults who struggle to find the calm in their otherwise busy live too. In this case, a white noise machine or even some light classical music may help clear the cobwebs and allow your teen to get a good night's sleep.
It may seem impossible to get your teen on the path to a healthy sleep schedule, but it can be done with a bit of work and cooperation. Helping your teen form good habits now can have immeasurable effects on their habits and health as an adult.