Teens often experience difficulty with sleep. It’s not unusual for teens to feel frequently tired, or sleep in late on the weekends.
In middle school, more than half (57.8 percent) of students don’t get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights. In high school, it jumps to 72.7 percent, making well rested high school students a rarity.
Generally, children ages six to 12 should get about nine to 12 hours of sleep each night, and teens from ages 13 to 18 need eight to 10 hours of sleep at night. When teens don’t get enough sleep, there can be severe consequences, including a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, poor mental health, injuries, and problems with attention and behavior.
What Causes Teen Sleep Trouble
Teens today are busier than ever, with exceptional demands on their time including schoolwork, extracurricular activities, jobs, social lives, family time, and more. Often, sleep just doesn’t fit in well with the other demands.
Although a lack of time for rest is a reason that teens often struggle with sleep, there is a biological reason teens aren’t sleeping well: a shift in their circadian rhythm. So, as they experience intense demands on their time, teens are also adjusting to a change in their sleep phase that happens around puberty.
Teens experience a sleep phase delay, which is a natural shift in their circadian rhythm as they mature into adults. It means that they naturally feel sleepy later, so their bedtime may shift one to two hours later than before.
One to two hours doesn’t sound like a significant change but consider this: while teens aren’t going to bed at the same time they used to, they are still expected to make it to school on time. Often, that means teens who are going to bed late and still waking up on time for school are not getting the average nine hours of sleep they need to be fully rested.
Supporting Healthy Teen Sleep
Help your teen develop good sleep habits that they can take into adulthood.
Set a regular sleep and wake time. Even as a teen, consistency is key for children. Help them thrive on predictability by going to bed and waking up at the same time each night and morning. Although they may be tempted to sleep in on the weekends, Monday mornings are easier if the routine is maintained. Walk them through a familiar bedtime routine, so they can easily wind down at night and relax.
Turn down screens at night. The blue wave light emitted from screens on TV, computers, and mobile devices can send a signal that it’s daytime and time to be awake, further complicating tricky teen sleep rhythms. Encourage your teen to stop using screens at least one hour before bed.
Cut back on commitments. If your teen is overloaded and struggling to keep up, it’s likely they are sacrificing sleep to stay on top of it all. Consider cutting back on commitments that aren’t necessary.
Rule out sleep disorders. Snoring and poor sleep despite healthy habits may be the symptoms of a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, which can be treated with a CPAP machine or other alternatives.
Push for later school start times. Five out of six U.S. middle and high schools start before 8:30 a.m., which puts an early start time on teen sleep. Talk to your school board about pushing school start times later in the morning so teens can adjust to their biologically later bedtime.
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