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The Important Ways Teens Are Affected by Lack of Sleep


Teen girl in pink long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans lays face-first on grey couch during the day.

The young people in our country are facing a true health crisis right now. We are talking about sleep deprivation in teens. The average amount of sleep that teenagers get is between 7 and 7 ¼ hours each night. This is not enough and a far cry from normal sleep! How many hours of sleep do teens need? Data and research tell us that they need between 9 and 9 ½ hours. 

Teen sleeping is affected by a variety of reasons. If you live with a teenager, you can probably list several before you even continue reading! In most school districts, high schools have the earliest school start times. Some begin for the day as early as 7:00 AM, meaning that some teenagers have to get up as early as 5:00 AM to get ready for and travel to school. This is made even more destructive to their health by the fact that homework, sports, extracurricular activities, socializing lead to later bedtimes than they had when they were younger. After puberty, there is a biological shift in an adolescent’s internal clock of about 2 hours, meaning that a teenager who used to fall asleep at 9:00 PM will now not be able to fall asleep until 11:00PM. These factors combine for a nationwide crisis of sleep deprivation in teens. 

This isn’t something to brush off. The importance of sleep for students cannot be overstated! These are just a few of the reasons why sleep is important for teens:

Importance of Sleep on Mood

If you were to describe a teenager in one word, many people would use the term “moody.” Teens are known for their fluctuating emotions. As puberty begins, both boys and girls have a difficult time regulating their moods, and this often results in getting frustrated or upset more easily than in years past. Sleep deprivation will cause your teenager to be even more moody, irritable, and cranky. In fact, a lack of high-quality and sufficient sleep has this effect on all of us. The fact is that most teens don’t need any extra help being in a bad mood!

It isn’t just being cranky. A lack of sleep leads to mood disorders like Depression. Teenage Depression facts are both staggering and concerning. Depression extends beyond sadness to the point of a disorder that interferes with a teen's ability to function. Depression affects about 20% of adolescents by the time they become adults. Teen depression is a risk factor for developing a number of other mental health symptoms and disorders, including addiction and suicide. Teenagers who are sleep deprived and depressed are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors, such as drinking, driving fast, and taking drugs.

Impact of Sleep on Physical Development

While you are asleep, your body is repairing and growing. That is one reason a young person needs so much of it; they are still growing! Their sleep affects their body size and athletic performance, either for the better or for the worse. Sleep deprivation in teens will result in the latter.

It’s important to also stop and mention how a lack of sleep has an effect on obesity. Obesity is a serious, long-term disease. A teen who is in the obese category has a much higher chance of being obese throughout their entire life and experiencing the health effects that go along with it, like Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, joint pain, breathing trouble, and much more. A teen’s obesity is often the result of several risk factors, including not getting enough sleep.

Role of Sleep in Cognitive Growth and School Performance

Studies show that teenagers who get less sleep are more apt to get poor grades in school, fall asleep in school, and have too many tardy and absent days. This has to do with how sleep affects your cognitive ability. Inadequate sleep will result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity, all of which are important in high school! Sleep deprivation in students is responsible for many failed tests and detentions for tardiness every school year.

How to Help Your Teenager get Enough Sleep

As serious as this problem is, you are not without answers. There are sleep deprivation solutions that you can begin to put into place right away! One of the most important things to do is to make sure he or she maintains a regular sleep schedule. Your teenager should go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day, even on the weekend. This sleep schedule should also ensure they get to bed in time to wake up early enough for school the next morning.

Another way to help is to turn your teen’s room into a sleep oasis! This includes making sure they have a high-quality mattress that they find comfortable and supportive. Turn off televisions, computers, and cell phones well before bedtime and keep them out of their room all together at night. Television viewing, video game playing, internet use, and other stimulating activities at bedtime will cause problems falling asleep. This will lead to sleeping in later and staying up late against the next night. It is a vicious cycle! 

If you are concerned about your child’s health, discuss these problems with their pediatrician. This medical doctor will no doubt stress the importance of not only sleep but sleeping on the right mattress. Take your teen into your nearest City Mattress location and let them pick out a mattress that feels right to them! It’s a fantastic way to encourage them to get the sleep their body needs, each and every night.