Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
The teenage period is a peculiar phase of human development. It’s the formative period for physical, mental, and psycho-social maturity.
During this period, the changes that happen can have far-reaching consequences on one’s overall well-being, academics, and social relationships.
It is no surprise that adequate sleep is crucial to teenagers attaining their full developmental potential during this formative period.
According to the National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teenagers require between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night for optimum health and development.
Regrettably, many studies show that many teenagers get significantly less sleep than they require. Teenagers don’t get enough sleep because they experience various obstacles to obtaining consistent, restful sleep.
Recognizing these obstacles can help teenagers and their parents devise strategies to improve their sleep.
This article will highlight why teens need quality sleep, the obstacles to quality sleep in the teenage years, and some helpful sleep strategies.
Why Sleep is Vital for Teens?
The adolescent phase is a time of rapid multifaceted growth. Adequate sleep is a crucial requirement for the sustenance of the growth and development associated with the teenage years. Some of the reasons why sleep is essential for adolescents include:
1) Cognition and Intellect
Sleep is essential for the brain’s function and metabolism. Adequate sleep improves focus, memory, and analytical thinking.
It sharpens the mind, allowing for recognizing the most critical information necessary to consolidate learning.
Quality sleep also promotes critical thinking and imagination, stimulating creativity. These are necessary for teens to excel academically and develop life skills.
Adolescents who don’t get adequate sleep may have suboptimal cognitive functioning and trouble concentrating; this results in poor academic performance.
2) Physical Well-Being
Sleep is necessary for the proper functioning of practically every system in the body.
It strengthens the immune system, aids in hormone regulation, and promotes muscle and tissue repair.
Significant physical growth occurs during the teenage years and can be harmed by sleep deprivation.
For instance, researchers discovered that adolescents who do not get enough sleep tend to develop a dysfunctional metabolism, increasing the risk of developing diabetes and heart problems.
3) Mental Health
Insufficient sleep can affect one’s mental health and cause mood dysfunction.
Sleep-deprived people are usually irritable, moody, and excessively react to events.
For teenagers adjusting to more freedom, responsibility, and new social contacts, the consequences of sleep inadequacy can be considerably more severe.
Prolonged sleep deprivation can negatively affect emotional and mental development. It can also increase the likelihood of interpersonal conflict, dysfunctional social relationships, and other mental health troubles.
Sleep insufficiency has been consistently associated with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
Sleep deprivation in adolescents has also been associated with an increase in the risk of suicide. Improving sleep may play a role in preventing and alleviating the symptoms of mental health problems.
4) Impaired Judgement and High-Risk Behaviour
Sleep deprivation has been shown to impair the development of the frontal lobe, a brain region crucial for impulse control.
Unsurprisingly, multiple studies have discovered that adolescents who don’t get adequate sleep are more prone to participate in risky behaviors like drug abuse.
5) Increased Risk for Injuries
Many studies have linked sleep insufficiency in adolescents to an increase in unintended accidents and injuries.
Some of the injuries can be serious enough to cause death. These injuries usually result from an increased likelihood of teenagers adopting unhealthy practices like drunk driving.
Sleep inadequacy can also make teens drive while drowsy. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can slow down one’s reaction comparable to excessive alcohol consumption.. These factors increase teenagers’ risk for accidents, injuries, and mortality.
Sleep Obstacles During Teenage Years
Many factors contribute to sleep insufficiency among teenagers. These factors can vary from one person to another. Some of the obstacles to sleep among teenagers include:
1) Discordance between sleep time preference and school activities
Most teenagers prefer to sleep late and get up late in the morning (the night owl sleep chronotype).
Adolescents have a slower sleep drive, which means they do not typically get sleepy until late. Also, teenagers’ body usually takes longer to produce melatonin, the hormone that aids in sleep promotion.
The night-owl sleep pattern does not align with the timing for school activities, as most schools begin work around 8 am. Most teenagers would rather be in bed at this time.
So, because of this discordance, most teenagers do not get as much sleep as they should.
Teens frequently find themselves with their hands full. School assignments, household chores, social activities, and recreation are just a few things that can compete for a typical teenager’s time.
With so much to cram into each day, many adolescents neglect to schedule adequate sleep time. They may delay their bedtime during the week to complete homework or on weekends to socialize, perpetuating their night owl sleep routine. Juggling these many activities can be stressful and reduce sleep time and quality.
3} Use of Electronic Gadgets at Bedtime
Studies show that most adolescents use at least one electronic gadget at bedtime. It is an unhygienic sleep practice that has been linked to poor sleep by many sleep experts.
Additionally, using mobile phones and other gadgets at bedtime has been shown to reduce the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
4) Sleep and Mental Health Disorders
Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (a sleep disorder that results from breathing troubles during sleep) can impair sleep among teenagers. 
Also, mental health disorders, namely anxiety and depression, can impair sleep quality among adolescents and adults alike. Inadequate sleep can also exacerbate these disorders, producing a bidirectional relationship that wreaks havoc on sleep and emotional well-being.
Helpful Sleep Tips for Teens
Adopting hygienic sleep practices can help teenagers get better sleep and improve overall health. Some hygienic sleep practices for teenagers include:
- Allowing for 8-10 hours of sleep every day and maintaining a consistent bedtime
- Developing and maintaining a healthy bedtime routine
- Avoiding the use of electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- Avoiding caffeine and other stimulating drinks before bedtime
- Maintaining a comfortable and serene bedroom environment
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