Sleep Problems in Teens

Feeling shortchanged in the sleep department? You’re not alone. Everything from work and television, to computers, video games, and mobile phones keeps us awake, as do bouts of insomnia. Ditto for our kids.

Did you know that, when it comes to sleep, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that…

– Infants need 14 to 15 hours

– Toddlers need 12 to 14 hours

– Pre-Schoolers need 11 to 13 hours

– Grade-School Children need 10 to 11 hours

– Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours

And speaking of teens, according to the National Sleep Foundation, only about 20% of them get the requisite nine hours of sleep a night.

One big reason: they stay up late-and not necessarily by choice.

Apparently, a shift in the sleep-wake cycle during adolescence causes teens to fall asleep around 11:00 p.m.-and, thus, need to sleep later, too.

Then there’s the school clock. Despite the fact that teens naturally stay up later, in most cases our middle and high schools have them at their desks well before their younger siblings who naturally awaken earlier in the morning.

Most high schools find students at their desks by 7:30 every morning; for middle schoolers, that’s usually around 8 o’clock. In other words, no sleeping in, no catching up on much-needed zzz’s.

And that’s a real problem.

You see, teens experience their deepest sleep around dawn-interrupted on school mornings by a sounding alarm clock, hasty breakfast, and dash for the school bus, all usually well before sunrise.

Associate director of the Program at Boston’s Children’s Hospital Dennis Rosen says, “There’s more and more information showing insufficient sleep affects cognitive ability, and emotional, and physical well-being.”

In other words, sleep-deprived teens all-too-often experience:

– Depression

– Weight gain

– Lower grades

– Anxiety

– Inattention

– Behavior problems

– Drug and alcohol abuse

And, as if that’s not enough, studies demonstrate that sleep deprivation and car crashes are related. For example, an Eastern Virginia Medical School study looked at two communities, one with a school start time of 7:20 a.m. and another that started at 8:40 a.m. What they discovered: crash rates were 41% higher in the former.

Biological clocks being what they are, getting your teenager to bed down early might be easier said than done, but not impossible.

1. Once home from school and after a healthy snack–think peanut butter-smeared apple– have your teen start in on homework right away, starting with the hardest subject first and so on.

2. Make sleep a priority, encouraging a reasonable bedtime hour.

3. Help her/him establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as a shower, light snack, and a bit of reading.

4. Remember, too, that bedrooms are for sleeping-not computing, texting, chatting, or watching television. Plus light of any kind, such as from a glowing computer screen, makes falling asleep tougher, so keep the computer and TV downstairs. Ditto for the mobile phone once it’s lights out time.

As Ben Franklin noted so long ago, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy, and wise.” And a student ready to learn.

And while you’re at it, urge your school district to rethink its bell schedule, bringing it in line with the needs of its students, not the adults, so that the little ones head to the bus stop long before their older siblings.

Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for; find her articles at For more information, go to or contact Carol at

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(KLTV) – Medical experts recommend teens between 14 and 18 years old get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. A recent study from Columbia University found as much as a third of children in that age group do not get even 7 hours most nights.

Dr. Daniel Obesso, a sleep medicine physician with Trinity Mother Frances’ Sleep Clinic says he sees the problem all the time, and it’s getting worse.

“It’s been increasing since the 90s. Every decade it seems to get a bit worse,” Obesso explains.

He says the biggest factor interfering with teen sleep is technological distractions in the bedroom.

Obesso says, “In modern society, the biggest reasons are social media, tablets.”

However, more technology is not the only culprit. The Columbia University study found a correlation between less sleep among teenagers, and another growing pediatric trend: obesity.

Obesso says obesity can trigger a cyclical problem, “Obesity causes sleep fragmentation by itself and then sleep, not getting enough sleep, so sleep deprivation causes obesity. So it’s kind of this vicious cycle where they both contribute to each other.”

An under-rested teen can lead to problems much bigger than just sleepiness during the day.

“It can lead to learning difficulty, poor concentration, poor school performance. It can also lead to growth changes,” Obesso says.

Obesso lends advice to parents looking to ensure their child is getting enough sleep, “I think as parents we say go to bed but we don’t always go to check is the cell phone off, is the tablet off, are you going to bed.”

Indicators your teen may not be getting enough rest include general sleepiness, snacking, and focus issues in the classroom. Dr. Obesso says if you think your child may not be getting enough sleep they may not necessarily need a sleep study, but an appointment may help identify the problem and find solutions.

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