Building Healthy Sleep Habits in Teens

All of us have been thrown off of our routines over the past year and it’s affected just about every part of our lives at this point. One larger impact we’ve noticed—particularly in our teen patients—are sleep challenges. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics, teens and pre-teens aged 13-18 should get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night. However, many parents are struggling to get their teens off their various devices and in bed. In fact, research from the CDC shows that a whopping 73% of teens aren’t getting enough sleep! Why can't they sleep? Why do they need so much? And, how can we break that cycle to help them form better sleep habits? Keep reading!

Why is sleep so important for teens?

Well, speaking generally, teens are developing in some BIG ways mentally, physically, socially, and emotionally. Lack of proper sleep is a catalyst for problems in each of those areas. According to the Sleep Foundation parents and guardians have five areas of focus to consider:

1. Thinking and Academic Achievement

Sleep benefits the brain and promotes attention, memory, and analytical thought. It makes thinking sharper, recognizing the most important information to consolidate learning. Sleep also facilitates expansive thinking that can spur creativity. Whether it’s studying for a test, learning an instrument, or acquiring job skills, sleep is essential for teens.

Given the importance of sleep for brain function, it’s easy to see why teens who don’t get enough sleep tend to suffer from excessive drowsiness and lack of attention that can harm their academic performance.

2. Emotional Health

Most people have experienced how sleep can affect mood, causing irritability and exaggerated emotional reactions. Over time, the consequences can be even greater for teens who are adapting to more independence, responsibility, and new social relationships.

Prolonged sleep loss may negatively affect emotional development, increasing risks for interpersonal conflict as well as more serious mental health problems.

Mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder have routinely been linked to poor sleep, and sleep deprivation in teens can increase the risk of suicide. Improving sleep in adolescents may play a role in preventing mental health disorders or reducing their symptoms.

3. Physical Health and Development

Sleep contributes to the effective function of virtually every system of the body. It empowers the immune system, helps regulate hormones, and enables muscle and tissue recovery.

Substantial physical development happens during adolescence and can be negatively affected by a lack of sleep. For example, researchers have found that adolescents who fail to get enough sleep have a troubling metabolic profile that may put them at higher risk of diabetes and long-term cardiovascular problems.