How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teens Need

Sleep deprivation is very common among teenagers. Caught in the middle between a grueling schedule and a hormonal change which shifts their body clock two hours, many feel the negative effects of insufficient sleep. If you are wondering how many hours of sleep do teens need, the short answer is on average between 8 and 10 hours. However there is more to it than that. In this post we cover why teenagers become sleep deprived, the importance of sleep, the consequences of sleep deprivation and tips to help teenagers sleep better and more.

how many hours of sleep do teens need

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How many hours of sleep do teens need?

According to a 2015 study by the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours sleep. The study used a panel of 18 experts to review the available information regarding sleep duration for a range of age brackets. The panel agreed that while in some cases 7 hours may be appropriate, under 7 hours is insufficient for teenagers.

According to Nationwide's Children Hospital​, teenagers receive an average of 7 to 7 and a 1/4 hours sleep per night. This suggests that the average teenager is right on the brink of sleep deprivation. Certainly in some cases teenagers sleep less than 7 hours per night. 

This is a worrisome trend as while adequate sleep is a critical health requirement for everyone, it is especially true for teenagers.

Why do teenagers get sleep deprived?

Sleep deprivation among teenagers is unfortunately all too common. There are a few reasons for it:

A shift in circadian rhythm. 

​Experts say that during the teen years, the body's circadian rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is temporarily reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. This change might be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.

Source: kidshealth.org

Early school start. The schooling routine demands that teenagers wake up early. This in combination with the shift in circadian rhythm results in inadequate sleep. To resolve this issues some schools have begun pushing back the school start time. While this has shown positive results, a widespread adoption of this is unlikely any time soon.

Busy schedules. Teenagers in most cases have very busy schedules. They have schooling, sporting and other extra curricular requirements. Once at home they generally have large homework requirements. On top of this they are very busy socially. This all adds up and often leads to late nights.

Electronics. In days past teenagers had less stimulation to distract them at night. These days, the world of social media and smart phones makes it much more difficult for teenagers to switch off. Easily accessible social media and other online distractions make the mind more alert which then make it more of a challenge to fall asleep. In addition the light emitted by electronic screens mimic day light, triggering the brain to be more awake.

The importance of sleep

The importance of sleep is often underestimated. We spend one third of our lives sleeping and it plays a crucial role in our physical and mental wellbeing. This is especially true for teenagers who are in the development phase of life.

While we sleep our bodies go to work. It's the time where our bodies undergo growth and repair. This is particularly relevant for teenagers who are undergoing natural growth. In fact much of the growth is due to a particular hormone which has been shown to be affected by sleep deprivation.

Perhaps the most important ​benefit of sleep for teenagers is the positive effect it has on learning ability. The reasons behind this are two fold. Firstly, proper sleep allows us to focus and concentrate to a much higher level. Cognitive skills such as problem solving, attention and creativity are made more difficult without sleep. Secondly, sleep is essential for learning because it's the time when we consolidate our memories. Everything we learn during the day undergoes processing and storage  while we sleep. These factors together make sleep critically important for learning.

Sleep also plays a major role on our general wellbeing and state of mind. Without sleep we are much more emotionally vulnerable. We all know that teenagers can at times be moody. Well, this is made much worse by a lack of sleep. Sleep is critically important for relationships and our interactions with those around us.

More information on the benefits of sleep.

Consequences of sleep deprivation 

The consequences of insufficient sleep for teenagers include:

Moodiness. ​Sleep deprivation will have a direct impact on a teenager's overall state of mind. They will be much more likely to act in a moody or grumpy way. Further, their susceptibility to stress will be increased. 

Learning ability. A teenager's ability to learn and perform academically will be drastically hindered by sleep deprivation. Their level of focus will be reduced, as will concentration, attention and creativity levels. They will learn less during the day and also retain less memory at night. 

Behavior. Sleep deprivation leads to an increased likelihood of risk taking behavior. The ability to process information is stunted leading to poor and also slower decision making. A sleep deprived teenager is much more likely to make poor decisions such as drinking, driving unsafely and other risk taking. 

Poor development and health. Sleep is a strong influencer of overall health. If sleep is insufficient, teenagers are more likely to become sick. This is due to a weakened immune system which requires adequate sleep for strengthening. A chronically sleep deprived teenager is also more likely to have reduced growth.

Tips for teenagers

Teenagers experiencing sleep deprivation can use these techniques to improve their sleep:​

Keep to a regular sleep schedule. This is one of the easiest ways to get regular proper sleep. Our body responds to routine, so if you start going to bed and waking up at the same time consistently it will not only be easier to fall asleep, the sleep will also be higher quality. 

Maintain the schedule on weekends. If you want to benefit from a regular sleep routine, it is important that you stick to it on weekends. If you step out of the routine by sleeping in on a weekend, the rhythm will be affected. It will then take a few days to get back into it.

​Avoid caffeine. Caffeine and other stimulants should be avoided, especially in the afternoon. They will likely cause difficulty falling asleep.

Switch off the electronics. Stop using electronics right before bed. They cause mind alertness and the light they emit simulates daylight. Get in the habit of reading in bed. It will do wonders for your sleep.

Use low lighting at night. Similar to using electronics before bed, if you have strong lighting in your bedroom your mind will be tricked into thinking it is daytime, Use a low light setting to prepare your mind for sleep.

Exercise in the afternoon.​ Exercise can significantly improve on sleep quality. Not only will you feel more tired, the mind will switch off more easily after some degree of exercise. 

Time management.​ One of the main reasons that teenagers go to bed late is that they have demanding homework requirements. One way to fight this is to learn time management, or alter the timing of your tasks. Instead of doing homework before bed, teenagers should focus on completing their required work earlier in the day. In many cases teenagers have a long break after school before starting any homework. If it is done straight after school, going to bed at an earlier time is much more realistic. 

Check out this related post on tips to help you sleep.

The bottom line

If you are wondering how many hours of sleep do teens need, the likely answer is more! The average teenager is receiving 1 hour less than the recommended amount every night. This should be resolved if possible, as sleep is critically important to physical and mental health. This is especially true for teenagers who are undergoing important development.  Have you noticed the impact of sleep deprivation on a teenager? Do you have any other sleeping tips that might help those in need? We would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below if you have something to add.