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. Late bedtimes paired with early wakeup times and a change in sleep needs can cause teens to struggle. Though doctors claim that a rapid rate of cognitive development means that teens need 8-10 hours of sleep each night, 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.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
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 brain and body development. Some teenagers may be tempted to catch up on lost 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
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 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.
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. Many may find it helpful to close their blinds and try reading before bed rather than using a device or watching TV. There are a few ways that parents and teens may work together to improve sleep.
Consider the number of activities you have on your schedule as a teen. 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.
Rather than sleeping until noon on the weekends, 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.
Parents may help their teens achieve a healthier sleep schedule by 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 medical professional may offer support by providing educational materials or advice. 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.
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.
For example, establishing a sleep-wake routine 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are commonly asked questions regarding teenagers and sleep.
Are Seven Hours Of Sleep Enough For A 14-Year-Old?
Among all ages, insufficient sleep can be a detriment to health. The CDC information from the 2015 National and State Youth Risk Behavior Surveys found that many middle and high school students don't spend enough time asleep. Specifically, 57.8% of middle schoolers between grades six and eight don't get enough sleep, and 72.7% of high schoolers aren't spending enough time asleep. Seven hours of sleep is not enough for someone in the 13-18 years range.
How Long Should A Teen Be Asleep?
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that those aged 6-13 should get 9-11 hours of rest and that those aged 14-17 should get 8-10 hours of rest per night.
What Are The Risks Of Sleep Deprivation?
Risks associated with sleep deprivation include but aren't restricted to:
Poor mental health outcomes, such as a higher risk of anxiety and depression symptoms
Poor physical health outcomes, such as headaches and a potential increased risk of some physical health conditions
Drowsy driving, which may increase the risk of getting into a motor vehicle accident
Difficulties at work or school, potentially including poor grades and trouble concentrating
Fatigue or excessive daytime tiredness
Sleep hygiene can be essential for everyone, and it is possible to work toward healthy habits. Factors such as early school start times during the school week, absence of parent-set bedtimes, homework on school nights, balancing a part-time job with school, and the prevalence of sleep disorders can all impact sleep for high school students.
Extensive research suggests that mitigating early school start times by allowing students to start school later would benefit teens' health and well-being. In some cities, certain schools may allow a deferred schedule for teens.
Are Six Hours Of Sleep Enough For A 17-year-old?
Since the recommended amount of rest for those aged 14-17 is 8 to 10 hours each night, six hours wouldn't be considered enough for a 17-year-old.
How Can I Get Better Sleep In High School?
To get better sleep, you may:
Limit or avoid caffeine
Avoid electronic devices before bed
Set a social media curfew before bed
Try to wake up and fall asleep at around the same time daily
Go to bed in a dark, cool room that is absent of bright lights
Have comfortable blankets and pillows
Sleep on a comfortable mattress
Remove clutter from your bed and bedroom
In addition to bedtime hygiene, a medical professional may address sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea and insomnia) if applicable.
Is Sleeping Hard For Teens?
If you're struggling to sleep as an adolescent, you're not alone. According to the AASM or American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a natural shift occurs during puberty in the timing of one's body's internal circadian rhythm. This natural shift in circadian rhythm leads most teenagers to have a biological preference for a later bedtime than younger kids.