Sleep for teenagers
Sleep continues to be important for development in teenage years. 70% of high school students don't get enough sleep on week nights – and sleep deprivation can affect young people's physical and mental health later in life.
Listen to Dr Chris Seton from The Children's Hospital at Westmead discuss the importance of sleep for teenage wellbeing and performance.
Signs of sleep deprivation in teenagers
During adolescence, the internal body clock is temporarily reset, telling the teenage brain to fall asleep later and wake up later – this sometimes results in less sleep.
Your teenager may not be getting enough sleep if:
- they struggle to get up for school on weekday mornings and
- they sleep in for a long time on weekends.
The teenage years are the only time in our human lifespan when sleep does not decrease as we get older. Whether your teen is 12 or 18 years, they still need around 9 hours sleep on average.
Impact of sleep on performance
Better sleep is linked to improved performance in school and other activities such as sport.
When teenagers do not sleep enough, parts of their brain are more likely to shut down when trying to learn during the day. This can mean they won't remember what they learnt, especially when they are studying late into the night. This is because their brains don't get the chance to transfer this learning into long term memory, which only happens during sleep.
Impact of sleep on mental and physical health
Getting enough sleep can help teenagers feel happier by improving moods, self-esteem and reducing anxiety.
Research shows that poor sleep in adolescence is linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and suicide in adulthood. A lack of sleep can also increase the risk of diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
Using screens in bed trains the brain to be awake and excited, rather than linking bed with sleep. Plus, the blue light from screens keeps the brain awake by suppressing melatonin – the hormone that regulates the body's sleep cycle.
Just because your child is in their bedroom does not mean they are asleep. As kids get older, they bring study and screens into the bedroom which can mean they stay up too late.
Tips for helping your teenager get more sleep
- Explain to your teenager that you are concerned about their sleep and give a reason – like an increase in bad moods, poor performance at school or being more emotional than usual. Tell them you would like to help as good sleep can be difficult to achieve.
- Discuss how they might benefit from sleep – do they want to learn better to help with a future career goal? Do they want to become better at sports, or improve their self-image and self-esteem? Get teenagers motivated about what sleep can do for them.
- Create an evening routine with set times for dinner and homework. Agree on a regular bedtime together, where they can aim to get 8-10 hours of sleep.
- Talk to your teenager about how they can keep computer and phone screens out of bed.
- Encourage your teenager to relax by showering, reading or listening to chilled music 45 minutes before bed and limit screens, homework and exercise as much as possible.
- Limit caffeine, including coffee and energy drinks during the day, and especially in the evening.
- Check out our
tips for managing screen time.