How Much Sleep Do Teens Need?

The teenage years or the adolescent years is a time of great change where a person is transitioning from childhood into a young adult. Adolescence is considered to start at the onset of puberty and will last up until early adulthood. Puberty can occur anywhere between 10 to 16 years old. The changes that occur are both physiological and psychological which can shift biological sleep patterns in teens. Although this is a time of new discoveries, self-identification, and greater autonomy, and independence for many teenagers, stress is also extremely common among teens which can impact quality of sleep. The overarching question this article tries to address is how much sleep do teenagers need?

This is indeed a unique time in any person’s life. A teenager’s emotional and physical needs are different from that of a child’s or an adult’s. But the basics for a full and healthy life remain- balanced diet, adequate exercise, and sufficient rest and sleep.

Physical Changes for Boys
Physical Changes for Boys

The changes in a teenager’s body may be summarized into two things, growth spurts, and sexual maturation. It’s not uncommon for adolescents to shoot up several inches seemingly overnight. This is especially evident in boys. This is accompanied with the broadening of the shoulders and developing a more prominent jawline. They may also start growing facial and body hair. Their voice will start to break in early adolescence and soon, their voice will start to deepen.

Physical Changes for Girls
Physical Changes for Girls

For girls, puberty tends to start earlier. Perhaps the most defining milestone in a girl’s adolescence is getting her first period. That first menstrual cycle will signal the onset of puberty. Girls may find themselves taller than most boys their age, but boys will catch up soon enough. Teenage female bodies will change dramatically as the hips become wider for instance.  While all of these physical changes are normal, they will not all be met with positivity, which makes the teenage years all the more fraught and difficult.

Sleep and Health
Sleep and Health

A teenager’s emotional problems may result in trouble falling asleep. They can even develop sleep disorders such as insomnia and even sleep apnea, in some cases, due to lifestyle and other health factors. [1] This, in turn, can cause them to be tired throughout the day which can lead to moodiness, drowsy driving, lackluster academic performance, and unwillingness to engage in after-school activities. Sleep deprivation may even affect their mental health.[2]

How Long Should Teenagers Sleep
How Long Should Teenagers Sleep?

Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function at an optimal level, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Uninterrupted sleep makes it easier to for our bodies to reach the state of deep REM sleep. [3]

The circadian rhythm, or our natural body clock and sleep-wake cycle regulator can easily be thrown out of whack by one night of sleep deprivation. Teenagers can easily recalibrate their sleep patterns by going to bed early & avoiding distractions such as TV, physical activity and homework. They should set their alarm clock at a reasonable hour to allow them ample prep time in the morning to get ready for the day ahead.

For worst cases, you may seek medical intervention for your sleep-deprived teen. A doctor might suggest meditation, relaxation, or breathing techniques or in some cases medication. While some sleeping pills are prone to abuse, others, like melatonin, are commonly prescribed by pediatricians to kids and teens who have troubled sleep habits.[4]

A Last Word

The temptation for teens to stay up late and pull all-nighters is extremely strong. Some teenagers may naturally be night owls but as long as they stay within the normal bounds of what is considered a healthy bedtime, it should not lead to a health problem. At their age, they are still growing and although they may appear strong, healthy, and energetic, they haven’t yet reached adulthood yet. That is why it is important that they learn the discipline of well-balanced living as early as now. That starts with getting adequate sleep.