Combatting Sleep Deprivation in Teens


Teenagers are notorious for staying up late. As a result, they often aren’t logging enough hours of sleep each night. And with the growing number of personal devices, the increasing weight of homework assignments, and the temptation to catch up on sleep over the weekend, sleep deprivation shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, according to Jane E. Brody, a contributing author at The New York Times, “Researchers report that the average adolescent needs eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep each night. But in a poll taken in 2006 by the National Sleep Foundation, less than 20 percent reported getting that much rest on school nights.”

So how much sleep does your teen need? According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, adolescents need nine to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep every night.

The risks of sleep deprivation in teens…

Insufficient sleep can create a number of health and behavioral issues in teens, such as mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts, high blood pressure, and obesity. Studies also show that sleep-deprived teens are at a higher risk for car accidents. But with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, social activities, and a part-time job, how can your teen keep up and get enough sleep to stay healthy and happy?

…and how to cope as a family

One important thing to remember is that while school is a top priority, it’s not everything. If busy schedules are costing your teen a good night’s sleep, it may be time to re-evaluate. The difficult part is alleviating some of the stress of schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Often, your child is experiencing stress from activities and events that are inevitable, such as a required course load. So while teens may have to take that challenging AP course, you can take action to ensure that they get the sleep they need. Here are some ideas:

  • Next time you sit down to plan your week, schedule time to relax and have fun as a family, whether that time is spent watching a movie, cooking dinner, or going on a short walk. Recognize that stress can come from your child’s schedule, and take action so that it doesn’t lead to unhealthy habits.
  • If technology is the issue, consider enforcing a lights-out rule on weeknights. While teens may be tempted to stay up late texting or catching up on the latest trends on social media, remind them that lack of shut-eye can have a negative impact on their health and academic performance—something they may not consider when choosing technology over sleep.
  • And if they think they can catch up on sleep over the weekends, they may be wrong: “Trying to compensate for sleep deprivation on weekends can further compromise an adolescent’s sleep-wake cycle by inducing permanent jet lag,” says Brody. “Sleeping late on weekends shifts their internal clock, making it even harder to get to sleep Sunday night and wake up on time for school Monday morning.” Discuss the consequences that may result from sleep deprivation and help your teen make getting enough sleep a priority.