teenager in bed on laptop

Teenagers require more sleep than adults, but evidence suggests that teenagers commonly experience sleep deprivation. Delayed sleep patterns among adolescents are biologically determined — the natural tendency for teenagers is to stay up late at night and wake up later in the morning.

The amount of sleep a teenager gets affects how they think, feel and act. Getting the right amount of sleep can improve mood, creativity, memory, critical thinking, decision-making, risk-taking behaviours and more.

Sleep poll: key findings

Many of the nation’s adolescents are falling asleep in class, arriving late to school, feeling down and driving drowsy because of a lack of sleep.

The national survey on the sleep patterns of adolescents (ages 11–17), finds that only 20% of adolescents get the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights, and nearly one half (45%) sleep less than eight hours on school nights.

The poll indicates that the consequences of insufficient sleep affect nearly every aspect of teenage life. Among the most important findings:

  •  At least once a week, 22% fall asleep doing homework and 14% arrive late or miss school because they oversleep.
  • More than one half (51%) of adolescent drivers have driven while feeling drowsy.
  • Among those adolescents who report being unhappy, tense and nervous, 73% feel they don’t get enough sleep at night and 59% are excessively sleepy during the day.
  • More than one quarter (28%) of adolescents say they’re too tired to exercise.

Sleep tips for your teen

Discuss the issue

Parents play a key role in helping their adolescents develop and maintain healthy sleep habits. It is important for parents and adolescents to talk about sleep and learn more about good sleep habits in order to manage busy school and work schedules. There are ways to make it easier for an adolescent to get a better night’s sleep.

Encourage a regular sleep schedule

Establishing a regular bedtime and wake time schedule — and maintaining it during weekends and school (or work) vacations — can be very beneficial. Teens should not stray from their schedules too frequently, and never for two or more consecutive nights.

Most adolescents need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night. Your teen should first determine what time he or she needs to get up in the morning, and then calculate the right time to go to bed.

Be mindful of stimulants

It is best to stay away from caffeinated drinks in the afternoon and evening. Coffee, colas and most energy drinks are stimulants, as well as nicotine. They inhibit our natural sleep cycles and will prevent your teen from sleeping soundly.

Relax before going to bed

In the hour before bedtime, teens should engage in relaxing activities instead of those that keep their minds racing, like heavy studying or computer games. Additionally, they ought to avoid falling asleep with the television on, as flickering light and stimulating content can disturb restful sleep.

Try to avoid ‘all-nighters’

Staying up late can cause chaos to sleep patterns and the ability to be alert the next day. Teens should aim to get a good night’s sleep before an exam; all-nighters or late-night study sessions disrupt deep sleep and may inhibit memory retention and critical thinking skills.