Is Your Teen Getting Enough Sleep?

Find practical tips to help teens rest
sleepy teenager

Whether they’re FaceTiming with friends, having a marathon session of Roblox or (hopefully) doing their homework, it’s quite likely your child isn’t getting as much sleep as they should. 

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How much sleep does your child need? On average, kids between age 5 and 12 should sleep about nine to 12 hours and teenagers between age 13 and 18 need close to 10 hours of sleep. 

“However, they rarely get this much,” says pediatric sleep specialist Vaishal Shah, MD. “Many children get about seven to eight hours per night.”

But how do you know if your child is truly sleep-deprived and not simply sleepy or tired? 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.
  • Daytime naps in school-age teens.
  • Falling grades and reports of drowsy driving.
  • Difficulty getting up out of bed, despite being asked three or four times.
  • Frequently complaining about being tired.
  • They catch up on sleep on the weekends.

“If your child is struggling with excessive sleepiness, it can cause impaired memory and inhibited creativity, making it difficult to learn,” says Dr. Shah. “Their 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 kids lack sleep

Here are some possible reasons kids may be lacking sleep:

  • Technology, caffeine and socializing. Kids may spend hours texting, downloading music, gaming, social networking and watching videos online – often while drinking caffeinated beverages. 
  • Delayed ‘inner clock.’ In up to 10% to 15% of adolescents, the body’s inner clock gradually shifts to keeping delayed time. These kids do not feel sleepy at all at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. Rather, their bodies begin to feel sleepy around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. So too, their bodies want to get up at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m., rather than 6 a.m. or 7 a.m.
  • Lack of information. Most kids 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 using the weekend to catch up on sleep, typically after Friday all-nighters.

How you can help

Dr. Shah recommends some practical tips to help your child get better sleep:

  1. Look at their school and/or work schedules and cut down on non-essential activities.
  2. Keep consistent sleep and wake up times, even on weekends. Set an example by following a consistent sleep schedule for yourself, too.
  3. Avoid high energy activities within three hours of bedtime. Help them get at least one full hour of physical activity during the day, instead.
  4. Remove their TV, computers, smartphones and video games from the bedroom. Make sure they’re turning off their tech at least 60 minutes before heading to bed.
  5. Eliminate or reduce caffeine consumption and sugary drinks, especially in the second part of the day.
  6. Set a curfew on late night TV and use of smartphones, computers and tablets.
  7. Hang heavy drapes if there is too much outside light in the bedroom. If your child is scared of the dark, get a nightlight for them. 
  8. Keep their room at a cool temperature.
  9. Help prepare them the night before for an easy morning. This can include prepping their lunch or making sure all of their schoolwork is done so they don’t wake up in a frenzy trying to finish it. 
  10. Set a consistent bedtime routine that helps your child to get at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Start by making their bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few days and gradually work up to a set bedtime.

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

“If your kid has disruptive snoring, fear or anxiety around going to sleep or wakes up frequently, it’s time to consult with your healthcare provider about these concerns,” says Dr. Shah. “Also, talk to your doctor if your child has nighttime bedwetting that happens after age seven, too.”

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Untreated sleep disorders

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

  • 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 kids and for all of us,” he says.

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