Lack of Sleep in Your Teen Keeping You Up at Night


Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

COVID and the recent return to school is seeing U.S. teenagers return to their sullenness, detachment, and moody ways. However, parents and caregivers may need to look closely to see whether this behavior may unintentionally result from sleep loss. 

Teen wellness now has taken center stage, with the pandemic exacerbating teen sleep issues and early school times disrupting natural sleep rhythms affecting overall health and wellness. 

According to Standford Medicine News Center, “According to the 2011 sleep poll, by the time U.S. students reach their senior year in high school, they are sleeping an average of 6.9 hours a night, down from 8.4 hours in the sixth grade. The poll included teens from across the country from diverse ethnic backgrounds.”

More alarming, the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) made the following statement, “Middle school students (grades 6-8): About 6 out of 10 (57.8%) did not get enough sleep on school nights. High school students (grades 9-12): About 7 out of 10 (72.7%) did not get enough sleep on school nights.” 

Stanford’s Children Health supports these statistics, “According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teens should sleep 8–10 hours a night. But studies have shown that 7 out of 10 high school students are falling short of this recommendation on school nights.”

With this, teenagers’ wellness suffers, and it is imperative to win the battle against teen sleep struggles.

Signs of a Sleep-Deprived Teen 

While teenagers, in general, showcase boredom, irritability, mood swings, and low energy, there may be obvious indicators to ascertain whether or not this is due to sleep deprivation or other factors. If your teenager is not getting the optimal nine hours per day, you’ll be able to tell through the identification of these symptoms:

  • Trouble waking up in the morning for school more than once each week.
  • Sleeping for more than two hours later on weekends and vacations than on weekdays.
  • Falls asleep while studying, watching a movie, or other passive entertainment.
  • Sometimes falls asleep during the morning hours — on the way to school or in a morning class.
  • Takes erratic naps.
  • Is overcommitted and overscheduled with no downtime or breaks and showing signs of anxiety and depression.
  • Shows reluctance to talk about sleep issues.

What is the Difference Between Being Tired and Being Sleep Deprived?

Sure, teenagers may claim to be ‘tired,’ but tiredness is not the same as sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation occurs when a teenager sleeps fewer than eight hours constantly. With this, they accumulate sleep deprivation.

Possible Solutions to Sleep Deprivation

  • Sleep aids under the guidance of a doctor. 
  • Consult a pediatrician or a sleep specialist about temporary treatment and magnesium and melatonin supplements
  • Consult a sleep coach and implement special sleep protocols
  • Talk about sleep with your teenager and base the persuasion to obtain enough sleep on something they care about: and how sleep affects this. Through this, self-motivation to acquire enough sleep is built.
  • Wake your teen up on Saturday and Sunday within one or two hours of weekday wake-up times to ensure the brain clock stays in sync and makes it easier to fall asleep at the right time on Sunday night. 
  • Getting five to 30 minutes of outdoor sunlight first thing every morning, including on weekends, maintains harmony with natural circadian rhythms and makes falling asleep easier at bedtime.
  • Avoid heavy screen use at night and ensure your teen does not stay up late.
  • Avoid games and social media at night
  • Avoid overscheduling your teen and placing too much pressure on them, which leads to disrupted sleep
  • About two hours before bedtime each evening, simulate sunset in your house by turning off bright overhead lights and just having a few lamps on. This creates a prelude to sleep, which trains the internal clock to release melatonin and other sleep hormones. 
  • Ensure all curtains are closed, and lights are off in your teenager’s room as keeping lights on keeps the mind awake
  • Motivate your child to exercise and perform physical activity which tires out the body and helps improve sleep at night
  • The CDC recommends, “Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule during the school week and weekends. This means going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. “

Good Sleep Habits Support Emotional Wellness

To improve sleep habits, which supports your teen’s emotional wellness, it’s about getting them back to the sun, social interaction, increased activity, darkness at night, and earlier natural bedtimes. For parents, it’s also about working with others in the sleepless teen’s life to help create good sleep habits. 

As CNN Health concludes, “High school teachers, principals, college admissions committees, school counselors, and sports coaches can all be part of the solution here — putting downtime and sleep higher on the priority list.”


Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Stacey Rowan Woensdregt has more than 15 years of experience in print media, online media, copywriting, and digital marketing. She has written for many bespoke magazines and media houses and has worked within top digital marketing agencies around the world. Her niche markets include architecture, property, health and wellness, holistic medicine, art and lifestyle, and business.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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