How Much Sleep Does Your Teen Need?

Teenage girl (13-14) asleep on sofa
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The average teenager needs between eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. This is due, in part, to hormones that are critical to growth and sexual maturation that are released mostly during slumber. Yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of only 7.4 hours a night. This is far short of the desired quota for healthy teens. A lack of sleep affects school and health. See what you can do to help your child get enough sleep.

Teens Need More Sleep Than Children or Adults

Researchers at Stanford University found in a study that teenagers require more sleep, by one to two hours than their younger 9- and 10-year-old siblings, who only require about eight hours of sleep. Meanwhile, their bodies are telling them that they don't want to go to bed as early, until 11 p.m., due to the change in their circadian rhythms and release of melatonin in the brain. Parents tend to give teens later bedtimes and curfews as they get older.

Meanwhile, school starting times are generally earlier in high school than in lower grades. 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 as a result and 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 behind extreme moodiness, poor performance in school, and depression.

Teens also have a high 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 and avoid electronics in the hour before bedtime.
  • 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.
  • Daily exercise, 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.

Sources:

Carskadon MA. Sleep in Adolescents: The Perfect Storm. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2011;58(3):637-647. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2011.03.003.

Idzikowski C. Sleep Disorders. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech; 2012.

Sleep and Teens. UCLA Sleep Disorders Center. http://sleepcenter.ucla.edu/sleep-and-teens.

Teens and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep.

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