Is Your Teen Getting Enough Sleep?

Find practical tips to help teens rest
teen sleeping on books

How much sleep does a teenager need? Experts say, on average, adolescents between age 12 and 18 need close to nine hours of sleep each day. However, they rarely get this much.

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But how do you know if your teen is truly sleep-deprived and not simply sleepy or tired?

Pay attention

On average, adolescents between age 12 and 18 need close to nine hours of sleep each day.

Experts say to watch for these signs:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness, inattention and tardiness
  • Irritability, hyperactivity, depression, impatience, mood swings, low self-confidence, low tolerance for frustration or other impulse control problems
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Daytime naps in school-age teens
  • Falling grades and reports of drowsy driving

If your teen is struggling with excessive sleepiness, it can cause impaired memory and inhibited creativity — making it difficult to learn. Your teen’s metabolism, immune system and cardiovascular system can be affected and sleep deprivation can even cause depression and difficulty coping with stress and emotions.

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Why teens lack sleep

Here are some possible reasons teens may be lacking sleep:

  • Technology, caffeine and socializing. Teens may spend hours texting, downloading music, gaming, social networking and watching videos online – often while drinking caffeinated beverages. Add late-night social activities, pressures from school work and after-school jobs to the mix, and teens are living a lifestyle that puts sleep on a back-burner.
  • Delayed ‘inner clock.’ In up to 10-15 percent of adolescents, the body’s inner clock gradually shifts to keeping delayed time. These teens do not feel sleepy at all at 10 or 11 p.m. Rather, their bodies begin to feel sleepy around 1 or 2 a.m. So too, their bodies want to get up at 9 or 10 a.m., rather than 6 or 7 a.m.
  • Lack of information. Most teens are unaware of their own need for sleep. Parents may tend to supervise them less, producing a vicious “late-to-bed, late-to-rise” cycle. The end result: sleepiness in school and weekend catch-up sleep, typically after Friday “all-nighters.”

How you can help

7 practical tips to help teens get better sleep include:

  1. Look at his or her school, after-school and work schedules and cut down on non-essential activities
  2. Keep consistent sleep and wake-up times, even on weekends
  3. Avoid high-energy activities within three hours of bedtime
  4. Remove TV sets, computers, cell phones and video games from the  bedroom
  5. Eliminate or reduce caffeine consumption
  6. Set a curfew on late-night TV and use of cell phones, computers, etc.
  7. Hang heavy drapes if there is too much outside light in the bedroom

If your teen makes these changes but continues to oversleep for more than a few months, contact your doctor about a sleep evaluation. Sleep evaluations often reveal the presence of a sleep disorder, often going on for much longer than parents initially suspected.

Untreated sleep disorders

It’s important to address a suspected sleep disorder because if left untreated, they are associated with the following:

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  • Underachievement at school and work
  • Teen auto accidents
  • Depression
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Worsening of health problems such as diabetes and obesity

In general, good sleep is a cornerstone of good health – for teens and for all of us.

More information

Pediatric Sleep Disorders
Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center

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