Ahhhh teenagers and sleep. It’s a wild time. Between the nocturnal activities with teens up all night and asleep all day to coming home from school and napping, it’s exhausting! Let alone actually knowing why or when they’ll be up next! So what’s the deal with all of the WHAT, HOW & WHEN teens need sleep? We have the answers for you.
If you thought the sleep battles ended at toddlerhood, just wait for the teenage years. Not helping maintain regular sleep is the fact that for parents, negotiating teenage bedtimes is one of the few bribe techniques we have left at this age. We’re guilty of this – Do the dishes and you can stay up another hour! is a favourite in our house.
Alas, we CAN still help teens get quality sleep. Here’s what we need to understand about teen sleep, why they sleep like they do and how we can help them get more of it! Spoiler alert: parents may need to find a new bribe other than bedtime.
How much sleep does a teenager actually need?
Better Health sleep research shows that teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night. Most teenagers however get 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night, some getting even less.
Why do teenagers sleep like they do?
Teenagers need more sleep than adults to fuel their body and mind, as they’re growing so quickly. Combined with hormones, a teenager’s body clock adjusts so that they naturally stay up longer, delaying tiredness at night – and in turn, their natural morning waking time creeps later too.
Of course, when you add external factors such as staying up late to watch TV, being fixated on a phone screen or studying, these all stimulate the brain and prevent them from feeling tired too, causing more late nights.
Weekends are often a time for fun, sport and socialising for teens and heck, who has time for sleep? NOT TEENAGERS, THAT’S WHO. Before you know it, it’s all late nights and late mornings resulting in a natural sleep-wake rhythm that’s gone to whack and they’re catching naps wherever possible.
Not enough sleep makes for grumpy teenagers
While many teenagers can roll with the infrequent hours of sleep, some don’t cope at all. If your teen is constantly late for school, feeling fatigued during the day, moody or grumpy beyond reason or struggling with school work, it could be simply because they just need some more quality shut-eye.
Signs of teen sleep deprivation to look out for also include:
- Concentration difficulties
- Memory impairment
- Lack of enthusiasm
- An increased amount of ‘sick days’ at school due to tiredness
- Easily agitated
- Slower physical reflexes
It’s important not to dismiss the signs of sleep deprivation, especially if your teen is of driving age where not having full concentration threatens their safety.
How can I help encourage my teenager to get more sleep?
Many parents would agree that technology is mega important to teens, but it’s a major killer of their sleep. Cut the electricity (figuratively speaking) and wifi at least an hour before they go to bed, calling tools down. No phone, no laptop, no gaming – just relax. Use that time to sit and have a chat instead, read, shower etc.
Ways that you can encourage more teen sleep are:
- Embrace the inevitable sleeping in on weekends, view it as a time for healthy sleep catchup!
- Encourage teens to have an early night on Sunday in preparation for the school week.
- Take a look at your teen’s schedule outside of school. Are they over-committing to activities?
- Avoid drinking stimulating drinks like coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.
- Have a regular bedtime routine, especially on school nights. Shower, diffuser on, read a book in bed, they’re all ‘sleep signs’ for the body.
- Being active helps with sleep! Encourage involvement in sport, walking the dog or any outdoor physical activities.
- Ask your teenager about their day or if they want to chat. They might find you to be annoying, but it’s a chance for them to express if they’re feeling worried about something (a friend, a maths test, they’ve lost your favourite Tupperware and worried you’ll freak out). Often you won’t know your kid is feeling anxious until you ask!
Also, check the sleep environment. Is their mattress old and lumpy? Sheets could walk off the bed to the washing machine themselves? Pillows way past their prime? All of these things can make for not-so-great sleep.
Teenagers and sleep – it really does matter
Teenagers and sleep, it’s a tricky balance. If your teen is showing mild, niggling signs of depression or anxiety, a regular sleep routine can make a difference. Making sure they’re getting the right amount of sleep is a real mood booster and a step towards maintaining mental health.
If you feel you’ve exhausted all of the at-home tips for helping your teenager get some more sleep and it’s not improving, have a chat with your family doctor just in case there are underlying health issues.
We wish your whole household a blissful snoozefest, goodnight, sleep tight!