Elk River Teen Treatment Program

Teenagers Need Sleep!

Sleep plays a critical role in the physical and mental development of teenagers.

Unlocking the Secrets of Teenage Sleep: How Many Hours of Sleep Do Teens Really Need?

October 27, 2023

The Importance of Sleep for Teenagers

Sleep plays a critical role in the physical and mental development of teenagers. During sleep, their bodies repair and regenerate, and their brains consolidate and organize information. Adequate sleep is essential for adolescents to maintain optimal cognitive function, emotional well-being, and overall health.

Research suggests that teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. However, many teenagers fall short of meeting these sleep requirements due to various factors such as schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and social commitments. This can have a significant impact on their daily functioning and long-term health.

Understanding the Sleep Needs of Teenagers

During adolescence, the internal biological clock of teenagers undergoes a shift, causing a natural delay in their sleep-wake cycle. This means that teenagers tend to feel more alert in the evening and have difficulty falling asleep early. As a result, they may struggle to wake up in the morning, leading to insufficient sleep.

Furthermore, the use of electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, can further disrupt their sleep patterns. The blue light emitted by these devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. This can make it harder for teenagers to fall asleep and contribute to sleep deprivation.

Common Sleep Problems in Teenagers

Teenagers are vulnerable to a range of sleep problems that can impact their quality and quantity of sleep. Some common sleep problems include:


Insomnia refers to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Many factors can contribute to insomnia in teenagers, such as stress, anxiety, and an irregular sleep schedule. It is important to address these underlying causes to improve their sleep quality.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) is a sleep disorder characterized by a chronic inability to fall asleep at a conventional bedtime. Teenagers with DSPS often struggle to wake up in the morning, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness. Establishing a consistent sleep routine and avoiding stimulating activities before bed can help manage this condition.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. While more common in adults, sleep apnea can also affect teenagers, especially those who are overweight. Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping for breath during sleep, and daytime fatigue. If you suspect your teenager may have sleep apnea, it is vital to seek medical attention.

The Effects of Insufficient Sleep on Teenagers

Studies show that insufficient sleep can have a profound effect on a teenager's physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can lead to maladaptive behaviors as a coping mechanism for impaired cognitive function.

Teens who are clients of Elk River Treatment Program tend to be much more active while in the program than prior to enrollment. They participate in school, individual and group therapy, chores and experiential outdoor activities. They respond well to the structured life at Elk River which includes bedtime by 8 p.m. since their day starts at 5:30 a.m. Without cell phones or computers to entertain (or avoid issues), falling asleep is almost never a problem. They are supervised 24/7 by an awake staff who include any sleep problems in turnover reports at the end of their shift.

Staff at Elk River know that sleep deprivation in teenagers has been linked to a range of negative consequences, including:

  • Impaired Cognitive Function – Lack of sleep can impair a teenager's ability to concentrate, solve problems, and retain information. This can negatively impact their academic performance and overall cognitive development.
  • Emotional and Behavioral Issues – Sleep deprivation can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. It can also impair impulse control and increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Increased Physical Health Risks – Teenagers who consistently lack sleep have a higher risk of developing health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Sleep deprivation can also weaken the immune system, making them more susceptible to illness.

Tips for Improving Your Teenagers Sleep

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help improve your teenager's sleep before maladaptive behaviors erupt. Here are some tips to promote healthy sleep habits:

  • Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule – Encourage your teenager to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate their internal clock and promotes better sleep.
  • Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment – Ensure their bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Remove electronic devices from the bedroom and encourage winding down activities before bed, such as reading or taking a warm bath.
  • Limit Screen Time Before Bed – The blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt sleep. Encourage your teenager to avoid using screens at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, they can engage in relaxing activities such as reading or listening to calming music.
  • Encourage Regular Exercise – Regular physical activity promotes better sleep. Encourage your teenager to engage in exercise during the day, but avoid intense workouts close to bedtime as it can be stimulating.
  • Teach Stress Management Techniques – Stress and anxiety can interfere with sleep. Teach your teenager relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or journaling to help them manage their stress levels.

Healthy Sleep Habits for Teenagers

In addition to the tips mentioned above, here are some healthy sleep habits you can encourage your teenager to adopt:

  • Avoid consuming caffeine late in the day, as it can interfere with sleep.
  • Encourage them to avoid napping during the day, as it can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  • Create a bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities to signal to their body that it is time to sleep.
  • Encourage them to avoid stimulating activities, such as playing video games or watching thrilling movies, close to bedtime.
  • Support them in prioritizing sleep and making it a non-negotiable part of their daily routine.

Creating a Sleep Schedule for Your Teenager

Creating a sleep schedule for your teenager can help them establish consistent sleep patterns. Here's how you can create an effective sleep schedule:

  1. Determine the ideal wake-up time based on their daily commitments.
  2. Count back 8 to 10 hours to determine their bedtime.
  3. Gradually shift their bedtime earlier by 15 minutes each night until the desired bedtime is reached.
  4. Encourage them to wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to maintain their sleep schedule.

Your teenager can improve their sleep quality and overall well-being by following a consistent sleep schedule.

Addressing Ongoing Sleep Challenges

If your teenager continues to struggle with sleep despite implementing healthy sleep habits, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A healthcare provider or sleep specialist can evaluate their sleep patterns, identify any underlying sleep disorders, and recommend appropriate interventions. Don't hesitate to reach out for support and guidance if your teenager's sleep issues persist.


Sleep is a critical component of a teenager's physical and mental health. Understanding the sleep needs of teenagers and addressing common sleep problems is essential for their overall well-being. By promoting healthy sleep habits, creating a consistent sleep schedule, and seeking professional help when needed, you can help your teenager unlock the secrets of a good night's sleep.