Teenager in bed on her phone

Are your teenagers getting enough sleep?

Teenager in bed on her phone

How much do teenagers need?

Most teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night. In reality, adolescents are notorious for not getting enough sleep with the average teen sleeping between 7 and 7 ¼ hours. 

Why is sleep important?

For teenagers to do well at school or excel at sports, it’s important for them to get the right amount of sleep. Sleep also helps teens to stay healthy and develop properly. Not enough sleep leads to a dip in athletic ability, relationship problems and drowsiness, while significant loss of sleep can suppress the immune system, cause health problems (e.g. heart disease and obesity) and create emotional problems like depression. 

Why don’t they get enough?

Teenage sleep patterns are different to those experienced by children and adults. We all have an internal body clock that works on a 24 hour cycle and it’s regulated by the brain releasing the sleep hormone, melatonin. During the teen years the body clock resets and melatonin is released approximately two hours later. Therefore, a teenager who used to feel sleepy at 9pm, now struggles to sleep before 11pm. It also means they tend to wake up 2 hours later.

These changes coincide with a busier time of life. Pressures at school to do well cause an increase in homework and study time. Extracurricular activities like sports and part-time jobs increases the demand on a teenager’s time as does their social life; with many teenagers staying up late contacting friends via social media, watching videos and playing computer games.

Early school starting times can worsen the problem. A late night conversing with friends followed by an early wake-up call for school means that some teenagers struggle to get 6 or 7 hours sleep each night. This may not seem too much of a problem but can be significant over a long period of time.

The results of not enough sleep

Not having enough sleep can cause the following impacts on a teenager’s life:

  • Mood swings. Teenagers have a reputation for being moody and irritable. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for them to regulate their moods and they tend to get easily upset, frustrated and depressed
  • Risk taking. Sleep deprived teenagers are more likely to take unnecessary risks like taking drugs, excessive drinking and driving erratically
  • Brain function. Too little sleep can result in poor memory, lack of attention span, slow reaction times, inferior decision making and lack of creativity. All things that are important in school
  • Academic progress. Teenagers who get too little sleep have been shown to get inferior grades at school and are more likely to be late for lessons
  • Drowsiness. Sleep deficient adolescents tend to feel drowsy especially in the middle of the afternoon 

How can teenagers sleep better?

To help teenagers sleep better they could:

  • Keep to regular sleep and wake up times even at the weekends
  • Take regular exercise, but not immediately before bed
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening
  • Stop smoking, vaping or drinking alcohol in the evening as these can interrupt sleep.
  • Unwind by reading or listening to music
  • Avoid using mobile phones or tablets for an hour before bed as the blue light emitted from these devices can affect the brain’s release of melatonin
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Create a good sleep environment by making sure the bedroom is dark, quiet and cool
  • Get a new bed as sometimes the right bed can make all the difference [link]
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