Healthy Sleep for Teens

Healthy Sleep for Teens

Most students who I ask about their “bedtimes” tell me that they go to bed at 11pm or later.  Since they get up for school at 5 or 6am, they are only getting about 6-7 hours of sleep each night.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 90 percent of high school students in the United States get inadequate sleep.  Teenagers require about 9 hours of sleep per night for optimal health, but the typical adolescent gets only 6.75 hours of sleep on school nights, according to the latest research.  This is not enough.

Chronic sleep loss can have significant consequences.  Some of these consequences include:

  • increased chance of automobile crashes (up to 65% and 70% in some studies)

  • Increased chance of sports injuries (68% increase in one study)

  • Increased depression and suicidal ideation

  • Increased substance abuse

  • Increased risk-taking and riskier sexual behavior

  • Increased school violence and bullying

  • Increased insulin resistance and diabetes

  • Increased stress response and inflammatory response

  • Increased risk of obesity

  • Increased risk of heart disease and aggressive forms of cancer

  • Decreased emotional intelligence and decreased empathy

  • Compromised immune functioning

  • Reduced attention and problem-solving skills

  • Reduced academic performance

These are all scary consequences of chronic sleep loss!

During puberty, adolescents’ brains are biologically programmed to fall asleep later at night due to a shift in their melatonin release and “circadian rhythms.”  They often are not tired until much later and then struggle to wake up early for school.

So, working with the schedule we have, how can you support healthy sleep and encourage your teen to develop good sleep hygiene?  As best you can, set and enforce healthy bedtimes based on wakeup times and how many hours of sleep is needed. Establish regular, relaxing bedtime routines, and sleep in a room that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.  Have your teen avoid electronics, exercise, or heavy meals too close to bedtime. If screens must be used, consider dimming the light or putting the screen on a blue setting, as this is easier on the eyes. Additionally, limit caffeine consumption; read labels since caffeine is in more products than we realize.  If you suspect sleep problems, hear heavy snoring, or notice your child falling asleep during the day, consider seeing the doctor.


Theresa Black, LISW-S

School Social Worker


Sources and Additional Information:

Teens and Sleep

National Sleep Foundation Healthy Sleep Tips


Sleep Hygiene