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How Much Sleep Does a Teenager Need?

teen sleep needs

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep, and the older we get, the more we cherish it. But that wasn’t necessarily the case when we were teens.

Remember pulling all-nighters with our friends? What about staying up too late to watch reruns of our favorite TV show? It’s easy to neglect sleep when you’re young.

Not only is good sleep something we need to be at our best for the upcoming day, but it’s also something that can be beneficial to both our physical and mental health. This rings true, especially for teens.

If you’re a parent or caregiver of a teen, you know just how busy they are. They have to be ready for school, extracurricular activities, perhaps a job, and everything in between.

A constant lack of sleep can create a recipe for unnecessary issues. You want your teen to be at their best. That means sleep is key.

So, just how much sleep does your teen need? Probably more than you think.

How Much Sleep Does Your Teen Need?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teens who do not get enough sleep are at a higher risk for many behavioral and health problems. The CDC explains, “Children and adolescents who do not get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior.”

Typically, how much sleep someone needs depends on their age. Those ages 13-18 should be getting eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends. Anything less than eight hours is considered to be not enough sleep for this age group.

Those who are younger should be getting even more sleep. Usually, a child ages 6-12 should be getting nine to 12 hours of sleep each night. If they’re getting less than nine hours of sleep each night, that’s simply not enough.

So, Why Do Teens Have Trouble Sleeping?

Being a teen means dealing with the constant changes of your mind and body. Remember, they’re going through a lot. These definitely aren’t the easiest years of their lives.

Laura Sterni, a sleep expert at Johns Hopkins University, says, “Teens experience a natural shift in circadian rhythm (internal clock).” This, in turn, makes it more difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. With everything they have going on in their lives, sleep deprivation becomes a real possibility.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, which reports 70% of high schoolers don’t get enough sleep, “Many teens will stay up late but still have to wake up early the next morning for school. It’s often during the weekend that they try to catch up by sleeping later and longer, which makes it even harder to return to an early morning wake time the following Monday.”

Teens may also be balancing things like homework, extracurricular activities, and a job. That’s a lot to handle. One commitment might delay another, again forcing the teen to play catch-up. This can lead to late nights trying to complete one or more of the projects they couldn’t finish earlier.

There’s also the technology aspect. Digital devices are within arm’s reach the majority of the day and night. Teens and adults are both guilty of obsessively checking their phones or playing the newly released video game. But the light from these screens can cause your teen to stay awake.

Another, perhaps simpler, reason is they are struggling to relax in their sleeping space. Even for the easiest of sleepers, an uncomfortable, loud, or bright space might be too big of a distraction.

teen sleep needs 1

Signs More Sleep Is Needed

Not getting enough sleep can lead to sleep deprivation. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep deprivation occurs when your teen doesn’t get enough sleep, they sleep at the wrong time of day, they don’t sleep well, or they have a sleep disorder.

As a parent/caregiver, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of this. Your teen may not be getting enough sleep if they feel they could fall asleep at any moment while:

  • Watching TV
  • Sitting still in places like the classroom
  • Riding in a car
  • Sitting quietly after lunch
  • Sitting in traffic
  • Talking to someone

The NIH explains, “You have an internal ‘body clock’ that controls when you're awake and when your body is ready for sleep. This clock typically follows a 24-hour repeating rhythm (called the circadian rhythm). The rhythm affects every cell, tissue, and organ in your body and how they work.”

Proper sleep can be life-changing for your teen. If you notice they’re constantly tired, then they’re probably not getting the amount of sleep they need.

What Happens If Your Teen Doesn't Get Enough Sleep?

According to the NIH, around 40% of teens feel they are too tired most of the time. The NIH also mentions that teens need more sleep because they are experiencing “very fast physical, intellectual, and emotional growth.”

Furthermore, teens who do not get enough sleep are more likely to battle mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), “Depression is a serious medical illness. It's more than just a feeling of being sad or ‘blue’ for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million teens and adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life.”

As a parent/caregiver, it’s important to look out for any of these symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Overeating or not eating at all
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Irritability
  • Thoughts of harming themselves
  • Aches or pains
  • Digestive problems

As for anxiety, the NLM says, “Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness. It might cause you to sweat, feel restless and tense, and have a rapid heartbeat. It can be a normal reaction to stress.” There are also anxiety disorders, which include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobias.

Generalized anxiety disorder involves excessive worry about everyday things like school or work. Those with panic disorder may experience panic attacks, which are sudden periods of intense fear. Phobias pertain to the fear of something that typically isn’t dangerous.

Depression and anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. However, if your teen isn’t getting enough sleep, their chances of developing one of these mental health disorders may increase.

These mental health disorders can be difficult to manage — especially for teens. Be sure to keep an eye out for any of the symptoms.

Here’s What You Can Do

If your teen is struggling with getting enough sleep, there are a few things you can do to help. Remember, it's important for you as the parent/caregiver to support and encourage a healthy sleep schedule.

The first thing you can do, according to the CDC, is encourage them to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. This involves going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning.

You can also encourage limiting light exposure and technology use in the evenings. It’s easy for all of us, not just teens, to become infatuated with a YouTube video or a text from a friend. By simply putting their devices away for the night, your teen can eliminate one huge distraction from interrupting their pending snooze.

Also, your teen can set things like the room temperature to a setting that's comfortable. This can also include incorporating relaxing music or complete silence. This is all typically a matter of preference.

They can also avoid late meals and caffeine right before they go to sleep. Your teen may also find that exercising may help them sleep better at night.

If your teen is struggling to balance school, work, and extracurricular activities, have a talk with them. Try to develop a schedule that works best for them and one that will allow them to get to bed at a reasonable time.

At the end of the day, it’s all about what makes your teen comfortable and relaxed when it’s time to sleep. You can sit down with them to talk about the importance of sleep and offer any advice you think will help the situation.

Remember to approach the situation in a calm, helpful manner. Try to avoid being confrontational or judgmental about their sleeping habits. If needed, seeing a sleep specialist may also help. If you think your teen needs help addressing depression and/or anxiety, do not be afraid to seek help.

teens sleep

If Needed, Do Not Hesitate to Seek Treatment

We’ve talked about how much sleep your teen needs and how lack of sleep can cause problems, such as increasing the potential for depression and/or anxiety.

If they are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, professional treatment may be necessary. Your teen can learn how to manage these conditions at an early age, which will give them the tools they’ll need to manage depression and/or anxiety as they grow older.

In any case, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Neither you nor your teen should have to address these mental health disorders alone. They are manageable.

Managing Depression and Anxiety

Being a teen doesn’t come without its challenges. If you’re a parent/caregiver and you’re seeing any of the symptoms of depression or anxiety previously mentioned, professional treatment may be beneficial.

At SUN Behavioral, we offer evidence-based adolescent therapy treatments to help with mental health and mood disorders. Our adolescent therapy involves identifying psychological issues affecting your teen’s mental health and causing emotional distress. A therapist will then work with them to identify healthy ways of dealing with and managing those issues.

Through teen mental health counseling, your teen can learn how to manage their depression or anxiety so they’ll have the tools to live life without a disorder holding them back.

We use the combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy to help make managing symptoms of depression or anxiety much easier. Our trained staff of psychiatrists and trauma-informed professionals is here to make sure your teen is receiving the care they need throughout the treatment process.

Mental Health Services

Here at SUN Behavioral Columbus, we believe in empowering our patients to be the expert in their life. This includes being able to identify their needs and learning how to overcome obstacles. To learn more about how we can help, call (614) 706-2786.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is five hours of sleep healthy for a teenager?

No, this is not enough sleep for a teen. Those ages 13-18 should be getting eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends. Anything less than eight hours is considered to be not enough sleep for this age group. Lack of sleep can lead to mental and physical health problems.

What time should a teenager go to bed?

It depends on what time they’re getting up in the morning. For example, if your teen has to be up for school at 7 a.m., they would need to go to sleep at anywhere from 9-11 p.m. It’s still recommended teens keep up with a consistent sleep schedule, which means going to bed around the same time every night. Even in the summer when they may not have to be up as early for school, maintaining a similar sleep schedule can be beneficial.

How much sleep does a 15-year-old need?

A 15-year-old will need anywhere from eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. Anything less than that is simply not enough. As a parent/guardian, you can help limit the number of distractions they have at night that may interrupt their sleep pattern.

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