Teenagers Don’t Sleep Enough!

Just about every one who has ever parented a teenager has made a complaint along the following lines:

They never go to bed at a reasonable time

They operate in slow motion in the mornings

They waste the whole weekend sleeping

The sleeping habit’s of teenagers form a part of the common adolescent stereotype along with messy rooms, moodiness, vanity, and a pathological obsession with sex.  What is not so common is an understanding regarding the importance, effects, or factors that influence teenagers sleeping pattens.

Facts About Teenagers Sleep

  • Contrary to popular thought teens need nearly as much sleep as children.  The National Sleep Foundation suggests teenagers require 9.25 hours of sleep per night.
  • Biological sleep patterns (circadian timing system) change during adolescence resulting in a teenagers natural sleep pattern starting later in at night. Research suggests this pattern does not change back until the early 20’s.
  • Many teens, particularly older ones, find it hard to sleep before 11pm. Most high schools start before 9am.
  • Research has found that approximately 25% of teenagers get less than 6.5 hours sleep on weeknights, while only 15% get more than 8.5 hours.
  • Teenager’s sleep on weekends can shift by an average of over 3 hours from weekday sleep patterns.  This can be attributed to accumulating sleep debt during the week, natural body clock changes, and lifestyle choices.

Consequences of Teenagers Not Sleeping

  • It is well established that the correct amount of sleep is vital to all round good health, lowering the risk of preventable disease, and functioning at the optimum level in daily life
  • Studies have linked sleep deprivation with depressive feelings in adolescents. In one study of teens who were found to be depressed, approx. 73% were not getting enough sleep.
  • Research has shown lack of sleep is linked to obesity in teenagers.
  • There are clear connections between adequate sleep and the ability of people to concentrate. Studies have found direct relationships between hours of sleep and academic performance.
  • For old teenagers driving while sleep deprived is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% -illegal in many jurisdictions. Approximately 20% of fatal road accidents involve driver fatigue.

How To Help

We can’t control puberty induced sleep pattern changes in teenagers, and it is beyond most adults to change the starting times of high schools (though it is a cause worthy of more attention.) However there are some behavioural factors that can assist helping teenagers sleep, or at the very least minimise sleep deprivation.

  • Try to establish consistent bed times, particularly as the weekend approaches
  • Minimise use of TV’s or computer screens within an hour of going to bed.
  • Try to have homework completed well before needing to go to sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar from late in the day. Alcohol and nicotine will also mess with sleep patterns.
  • Try to establish daily routines before bedtime so the body learns to expect sleep soon.  Relaxing activities are obviously recommended.
Image: Sheila Steele
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Showing 2 comments
  • Beau

    doesn’t just stop at teenagers! Especially when the high school you attend starts at 8AM form years 7-10, then suddenly you start at 12PM for years 11 and 12. Messes with your sleeping pattern big time…I’m still trying to get back on track!

  • Shutdown

    Keeping a consistent time for sleep is a constant challenge! Desperately trying to cut down on my caffeine in-take!

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