Problem Sleepiness and Teenagers: How Much Sleep is Actually Needed

Research shows that most teenagers and do not get the sleep that they need on a daily basis. Teens are at an important stage of their growth and development. Because of this, they need more sleep than adults. The average teen needs about nine hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well rested.

There are many factors that keep teens from getting enough sleep. Causes for their lack of sleep include the following:

  • Rapidly changing bodies
  • Busy schedules
  • Active social lives
  • A wrong view of sleep

Teen sleep problems can begin long before they turn 13. The sleep habits and changing bodies of 10 to 12-year-olds have a close link to the teen years. The sleep patterns of teens are also firmly set in their lives. It is not easy for them to change the way they sleep. Thus teen sleep problems can continue well into their years as adults. For these reasons, the information found here may apply to anyone from 10 to 25 years old.

Sleep-Wake Cycle

Sleepiness can be due to the body’s natural daily sleep-wake cycles, inadequate sleep, sleep disorders or certain drugs. Many U.S. high school and college have signs of problem sleepiness such as:

  • Difficulty getting up for school
  • Falling asleep at school
  • Struggling to stay awake while doing homework

The need for sleep may be 9 hours or more per night as a person goes through adolescence. At the same time, many teens begin to show a preference for a later bedtime, which may be due to a biological change. Teens tend to stay up later but have to get up early for school, resulting in their getting much less sleep than they need.

Many factors contribute to problem sleepiness in teens and young adults, but the main causes are not getting enough sleep and irregular sleep schedules. Some of the factors that influence adolescent sleep include:

  • Social activities with peers that lead to a later bedtime
  • Homework to be done in the evenings
  • Early wake-up times due to early school start times
  • Parents being less involved in setting and enforcing bedtimes
  • Employment, sports or other extracurricular activities that decrease the time available for sleep

Teens and young adults who do not get enough sleep are at risk for problems such as:

  • Automobile crashes
  • Poor performance in school and poor grades
  • Depressed moods
  • Problems with peers and adult relationships

Many adolescents have part-time jobs in addition to their classes and other activities. High school students who work more than 20 hours per week have more than 20 hours per week have more problem sleepiness and may use more caffeine nicotine and alcohol than those who work less than 20 hours per week or not at all.

Sleep – There is no substitute! 

The amount of sleep needed each night varies among people. Each person needs a particular amount of sleep in order to be fully alert throughout the day. Many people simply do not allow enough time for sleep on a regular basis. A first step may be to evaluate daily activities and sleep-wake patterns to determine how much sleep is obtained. If you are consistently getting less than 8 hours of sleep per night, more sleep may be needed.

Finally…

Try to help your teen have a proper view of sleep. Sleep is not something to fight off or try to avoid. Sleep greatly benefits teens who make it a priority. They feel more alert and have more energy. They think more clearly and make better decisions. They will be happier and enjoy life more. There are simply too many benefits of good sleep for a teen to miss out on them. If you think you are getting enough sleep, but still feel sleepy during the day, check with your doctor to be sure your sleepiness is not due to a sleep disorder. Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

(Some information provided by UCLA Health).