The adolescent years are a pivotal time in one’s life. The brain and body develop rapidly, and the transition to adulthood brings substantial changes to personality, emotions, family, and social life, including academic performance.
During this time, sleep is crucial, functioning behind the scenes to allow kids to perform at their best. Unfortunately, studies show that many teenagers receive significantly less sleep than they require.
Teenagers require between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Teens’ physical health, emotional well-being, and academic achievement can all benefit from getting this suggested amount of sleep.
Teens, on the other hand, encounter various obstacles to getting regular, restful sleep. Recognizing these issues might assist kids and their parents in devising a plan to ensure that they get the sleep they require.
Why Is It So Important For Teens To Get Enough Sleep?
For people of all ages, sleep is essential. However, adolescent mental, physical, social, and emotional growth necessitates adequate sleep.
Academic Success and Critical Thinking
Sleep is good for the brain because it improves concentration, memory, and analytical thinking. It sharpens thinking, allowing you to recognize the most significant information and consolidate your learning. Sleep also promotes broad thinking, which might help you be more creative. Sleep is vital for teens4, whether they are studying for a test, learning an instrument, or developing job skills.
Given the importance of sleep for brain function, it’s understandable that kids who don’t receive enough sleep experience extreme tiredness and lack of attention5, which can negatively impact their academic performance.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to alter mood, creating irritation and heightened emotional responses in most people. For teens who are adjusting to increasing freedom, responsibility, and new social contacts, the consequences can be considerably more severe over time.
Sleep deprivation for an extended period of time can have a negative impact on emotional development, increasing the chance of interpersonal conflict as well as more serious mental health issues.
Anxiety, sadness, and bipolar disease have all been related to a lack of sleep, and sleep deprivation in teens has been shown to raise the risk of suicide. Improving sleep in teens may help to avoid or alleviate the symptoms of mental health concerns.
Physical Development and Health
Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of nearly all of the body’s systems. It strengthens the immune system, aids hormone regulation, and promotes muscle and tissue healing.
During adolescence, significant physical development occurs, which can be harmed by a lack of sleep. Researchers have discovered, for example, that teenagers who do not get enough sleep have a concerning metabolic profile, which could put them at risk for diabetes and long-term cardiovascular problems.
Risky Behavior and Decision-Making
Sleep deprivation can disrupt the frontal lobe’s development, which is important for controlling impulsive behavior. Several studies have shown that youth who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors12 such as drunk driving, texting while driving, riding a bike without a helmet, and not wearing a seatbelt. Teens who receive too little sleep are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, smoke, engage in risky sexual conduct, fight, and carry a weapon.
Behavioral issues can have a wide-ranging impact on a teen’s life, affecting both academic achievement and relationships with family and friends.
Injuries and Accidents
Teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be injured or perhaps die as a result of it. The increased risk of accidents14 as a result of sleepy driving is of special concern. Sleep deprivation has been shown in studies to reduce reaction times in a manner similar to that of heavy alcohol consumption15. Drowsy driving can be magnified in teenagers due to a lack of driving experience and a higher rate of distracted driving.
Are American teenagers getting enough sleep?
Almost all reports indicate that many American teenagers do not receive the recommended 8-10 hours of sleep per night. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 Sleep in America Poll, 45 percent of teens receive less than eight hours of sleep every night.
It’s possible that the situation will worsen. Nearly 69 percent of high school students obtained seven or fewer hours of sleep every night, according to data from four national polls done between 2007 and 2013. According to estimates, 23.8 percent of teens suffer from sleeplessness.
Women are more likely than men to get little sleep as teenagers. Teenagers in their late teens report sleeping less than those in their early adolescence. Teens who identify as Black, Asian, or multiracial had the highest rates of sleeping less than eight hours each night, according to surveys.
Why Is It So Difficult for Teens to Get Enough Sleep?
There is no single cause of sleep deprivation in teenagers. Several elements play a role in this issue, and these factors can differ from one adolescent to the next.
School Start Times and Delayed Sleep Schedule
There seems to be a strong tendency to be a “night owl” during adolescence, staying awake later into the night and sleeping later into the morning. Experts believe there are two biochemical impulses affecting a teen’s circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle.
For starters, teenagers have a slower-developing sleep drive, which means they don’t become exhausted until later that evening. Second, the body takes longer to produce melatonin, a hormone that aids in the promotion of sleep.
Many teens would obtain eight hours or more of sleep every night if they were permitted to sleep on their own schedule, falling asleep around 11 p.m. and otherwise midnight to 8 or 9 a.m., however, school starting times in most school districts require teens to get up considerably earlier in the morning. Many teenagers are unable to fall asleep early enough to acquire eight or more hours of sleep while still arriving at school on time due to a biological delay in their sleep-wake cycle.
Teens may try to make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping in on weekends, but this may aggravate their disrupted sleep schedule and irregular nocturnal slumber.
Teenagers have a lot on their plates. School assignments, employment duties, household tasks, social life, community events, and sports are just a few of the things that can take up their time.
With so much to cram into each day, many teenagers don’t set aside enough time for sleep. They may remain up late during the week to accomplish homework or on weekends to hang out with friends, reinforcing their night owl routine.
Excess stress has been linked to sleeping disorders and insomnia, and pressure to perform while managing these significant responsibilities can be stressful.
Electronic Devices are used
Teens are surrounded by electronic devices like cell phones and tablets, and studies like the 2014 Sleep in America Poll show that 89 percent or more of teens keep at least one device in their bedroom at night.
Late-night screen time can contribute to sleep disturbances. Teens’ brains can get wired as a result of using these devices, and incoming notifications can disrupt and fragment sleep. Exposure to the light from cell phones has also been shown to inhibit melatonin production.
Disorders of Sleeping
Because of an underlying sleep issue, some teenagers have trouble sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which involves periodic pauses in breathing while sleeping, can affect adolescents19. OSA is a common cause of sleep fragmentation and excessive daytime drowsiness.
Teens can suffer from sleep problems such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which causes a strong urge to move the limbs while lying down, and narcolepsy, which is a sleep-wake cycle condition.
Problems with Mental Health
Anxiety and sadness, as well as other mental health issues, can make it difficult for teens and adults to get enough sleep. Inadequate sleep can exacerbate these problems, producing a bidirectional relationship that affects both sleep and emotional well-being.
Disorders of the Neurodevelopmental System
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are two neurodevelopmental illnesses that can make it difficult for teenagers to sleep soundly. Sleep deprivation may also exacerbate the symptoms of certain illnesses.
What Can Teens Do to Improve Their Sleep?
Teens who are suffering from sleep issues should first discuss how much sleep they are getting and how it is affecting their everyday lives with their doctor. Their pediatrician can work with them to figure out what’s causing the problem and how to treat it the best way possible.
Medications may be recommended depending on the source of sleep issues; however, in most circumstances, prescription treatment isn’t required for teens to sleep better.
Reviewing and improving sleep hygiene, which includes sleep environment and routines, is a good first step for teens.
The following are some healthy sleep tips that can assist you in this process:
- Including eight hours of sleep in your daily plan and sticking to it during the week and on weekends.
- Developing a regular pre-bed ritual will aid in relaxation and falling asleep quickly.
- Caffeine and energy drinks should be avoided, especially in the afternoon and evening.
- To prevent examining electronic gadgets throughout the night, put them away for at least a half-hour before bed and keep them on silent mode.
- Choosing a supportive mattress and pillows for your bed.
- Maintaining a cold, dark, and quiet environment in your bedroom.
Modifications to sleep hygiene may be included in cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a type of talk therapy for sleeping issues that have been shown to be successful in adults and may be beneficial to teenagers. CBT-I works by altering negative sleep beliefs and thoughts and putting into practice effective sleep practices.
What can parents do to help their children sleep better?
Many parents begin by inquiring about their adolescent children’s sleep habits, as research shows that many parents are unaware that their children are experiencing sleep issues.
Parents can encourage their children to consult a doctor while simultaneously working with them to improve their sleep hygiene over time. According to several studies, teens who have a strict bedtime established by their parents receive more sleep and are less drowsy during the day.
Another option for parents is to lobby their local school district for later start times. A number of school districts have tried delayed starts and found them to be beneficial22 in terms of attendance and academic achievement.
Parents should also help their teenagers to avoid overscheduling and obligations that might cause stress by balancing proper sleep time with other activities.