Sleep Deprivation in Teens: A Common Problem
on average need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep at night. But most don’t get the amount
sleep they need. School, friends, homework, activities, the internet, and TV may all
higher priority for a teen than sleep. But not getting enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
lead to serious problems for a teen’s health and well-being. Here’s how to better
understand your child’s sleep needs and what you can do to help.
A teen’s natural sleep rhythms
Teens tend to stay up late and want to sleep late in the morning. But it's not that
they are being lazy or stubborn. It's actually due to natural rhythms of the teen’s
body. Body chemicals in teens work to make the teen naturally want to go to bed around
midnight or later. These chemicals also make teens want to wake up in the late morning.
Early school start times work against these natural body rhythms. And pressures on
teen’s time after school stop them from going to bed early to make up for lost sleep.
The result is often a sleep-deprived teen.
Why should I be concerned?
Teens who don’t get enough sleep may have trouble focusing in class. They may have
lower grades than they are capable of. A long-term (chronic) lack of sleep in teens
also been linked to health problems. These include an increased risk of being
overweight, developing diabetes or heart disease, and getting infections. Teens who
sleep deprived may fall asleep in class or other inappropriate places. And for teens
are driving, being sleepy can raise the risk of a serious accident.
Signs that your teen needs more sleep
Is your teen sleep deprived? Watch for the following signs:
Trouble concentrating or remembering
Need for caffeine or other stimulants to stay awake
Need for naps after school
Trouble sleeping. This includes problems falling asleep or staying asleep.
What you can do
Tips to help your child get more sleep and be more alert during the day:
Encourage your teen to get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis. Try to set a
regular bedtime. Help your teen avoid staying up late to do homework or study. If
after-school activities are too time-consuming, think about cutting back.
Have your teen get up at the same time every morning. Discourage sleeping in on
weekends to catch up on sleep. This does more harm than good by throwing sleep
Limit caffeine intake. Don’t let your child have caffeine after lunchtime.
Have your teen use their bed only for sleeping. That means
not using the bed for: reading, writing, eating,
going online, watching TV, talking on the phone, or playing videos or other
Restrict smartphone, TV, and computer use (which
can be stimulating) for at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, encourage
reading, listening to quiet music, writing in a journal, or other calming activity
during this time.
Give your teen a warm, noncaffeinated drink such
as milk before bed.
Make the bedroom a place where it is easy to
fall sleep. Take the TV, computer, and phone out of the bedroom. Make sure the
room is cool and as dark and quiet as possible.
Turn a bright light on in the child’s room in
the morning. The bright light helps the body wake up and shuts down production of
sleep hormones. Have your child use an alarm clock with a light feature.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
following can be signs of a more serious problem that can be treated. Let your child’s
healthcare provider know if your child:
Falls asleep during the day
Has leg twitching or moving when trying to fall asleep, or extremely restless sleep
Has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep often (insomnia)