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How Much Sleep Your Teenager Actually Needs

Written by: Mallorie Stallings

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Sherrie Neustein

Updated March 9, 2021

 

Teenagers commonly do not receive a full night's sleep. Some people might believe that teenagers don't actually need as much sleep as kids and adults do, but the opposite is true. Teenagers need more sleep (1), especially while going through puberty, which can cause them to need more sleep, even without a change in sleep patterns.

Not receiving enough sleep can cause teens to do worse in school, be moody, and "act out." If sleep deprivation continues, teens face an increased risk (2) for diabetes, behavioral problems, mental health concerns, injuries, and obesity.

Since parents want their teenage children to be healthy and successful, they commonly have questions about teen sleep patterns.

How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teens Need?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 need 8-10 hours of sleep (3) each 24-hour period. According to data analyzed by the CDC in 2015, more than 7 out of 10 high school students (grades 9 through 12) did not receive enough sleep on school nights.

How Do I Know If My Teen is Getting Enough Sleep?

There are signs you can look for that might indicate your teen isn't getting enough sleep. In adolescent sleep deprivation (4), teens often:

  • Have a hard time waking up in the morning
  • Experience mood swings and become irritable early in the afternoon
  • Are often late for school
  • Have trouble in school
  • Experience aggression
  • Sleep a lot on the weekends
  • Act nervous
  • Consume a lot of caffeine or start drinking alcohol
  • Seem confused
  • Act unmotivated

Why Don't Teens Get Enough Sleep?

Multiple factors contribute to teens not receiving enough sleep, such as:

  • Parents become less strict about bedtimes as teens get older. Teens stay awake later, but must still wake up early to an alarm clock to go to school.
  • Teenagers often obtain jobs. Demands of a part-job schedule could interfere with a teenager's ability to receive adequate sleep.
  • School schedules may also interfere with teens' sleep-wake patterns. Teens have a lot on their plates. In addition to this, they have homework, sports, extra-curricular activities, and social lives.
  • Teens' circadian rhythms are often disrupted by late nights, which delay sleep onset. Research shows that adolescents generally tend to prefer to stay up late and sleep in (5).

Why Do Teenagers Sleep So Much?

Many parents think their teen sleeps a lot because they sleep in on the weekends and holidays. In reality, the weekly schedules of teens leave many of them sleep-deprived. Sleeping in on weekends (6) may be their body’s way of responding to insufficient sleep.

If you notice that your teen is excessively sleepy and sleeps more than expected on both weekdays and weekends, please speak to your teen's physician.

Should I Let My Teen Sleep in on Weekends?

Sleeping in late on the weekends can fill in the sleep deficit caused by teens' weekday schedules, but it also results in a shift in their circadian rhythms, making it harder to wake up (7) to the alarm clock on school days. Weekday sleep deprivation and weekend over-sleeping may also give the effects of jet lag, and cause your teen to struggle to pay attention at school. If the inconsistent sleep schedule causes sleep deprivation, it may negatively affect their mood.

Convincing your teen to stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, probably won't be easy, but there are things you can try to help:

  • Talk to them and explain the importance of a consistent sleep-wake schedule and how poor sleep hygiene will negatively impact their lives..
  • Expose them to natural sunlight as early as possible. Open the curtains and turn on all the lights. This will signal their brain that it's time to wake up.
  • Try to keep weekday and weekend sleep hours consistent. If they need to catch up on sleep, make both bedtime a bit earlier and wake up time a bit later, instead of staying up very late and sleeping very late the next day.
  • Place their alarm clock on the other side of the room, so they have to get up to turn it off.
  • Try to keep them from napping for too long during the day, so it's easier to sleep at night.
  • In the hour or two before bed, try to limit the use of technology, including TV, tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Looking at devices too much, especially at night, will keep them feeling alert later and make it harder to fall asleep, therefore cutting into sleep time (8).

If your teen isn't getting enough sleep, don't worry, you're not alone. Try using these tips to get your teen on a regular sleep schedule. With time, you may have a rested, happier, healthier teen.

 

References

 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2315238/ Accessed on February 18, 2021.
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6703a1.htm?s_cid=mm6703a1_e Accessed on February 18, 2021.
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/features/students-sleep.htm Accessed on February 18, 2021.
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28211649/ Accessed on February 18, 2021.
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4780325/ Accessed on February 18, 2021.
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8399254/ Accessed on February 18, 2021.
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20795887/ Accessed on March 8, 2021.
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25193149/ Accessed on February 18, 2021.