We all know sleep is important, and most parents try their best to give their kids ample time to sleep each night. While most parents are able to ensure their babies and younger kids get enough sleep, this can become more difficult when your child becomes a teenager.
They have to get up early for school. They have more homework. They have more activities. They want to stay up later, and they don’t really want to listen when you tell them it’s time to go to bed. It’s easy just to focus on other things and let your teen’s sleep fall to the bottom of the list of priorities.
However, sleep is just as important for teens as it is for kids of any age. Statistics show that most teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep per night. On average, though, most teenagers actually only get between 7 and 7.5 hours most nights!
Why does this sleep deficit matter? Why is sleep so important for teenagers? The following five reasons illustrate the broad effects of sleep on teenagers’ lives.
School Performance, Learning, and Memory
Teens have more trouble learning when they are sleep-deprived. Sleepy teens have difficulty with a wide variety of abilities necessary for school, such as focusing, concentrating, learning, and remembering. As you might guess, this can have big consequences on their performance at school.
It’s not just that being sleepy makes learning harder, though. Sleep is actually necessary for learning and memory to occur, no matter how well your teen pays attention in class. A good night’s sleep is necessary to put learned information into long-term memory and build knowledge. During sleep, the brain organizes and consolidates the information learned from that day and puts it into long-term memory (defined as any memory lasting longer than about 30 seconds), so that it’s not easily forgotten. What this means is that if your teen pulls stays up until 3 a.m. studying for a History test, and then wakes up at 6 a.m., they are not going to be able to remember the information very well! The better sleep a person gets, the better they can remember what they learned and studied.
Even teenagers who get good sleep are susceptible to moodiness since they are experiencing surging hormones and intense emotions. In general, sleep deprivation tends to lead to more sadness, tearfulness, emotional instability, anger, impatience, and irritability in teens.
Being more impatient, irritable, and angry would negatively affect anyone’s relationships! It’s going to affect the way your teen interacts with friends, teachers, and of course, family.
Recent research published in the journal SLEEP found that getting six or fewer hours of sleep per night predicted an increased risk of depression for teens. Lack of sleep is also related to other mental health conditions, such as anxiety, ADHD, and suicidal thinking in teens.
Not sleeping enough tends to increase appetite. Teens who sleep fewer than eight hours per night tend to snack more and eat more high calorie foods. In addition, not getting enough sleep causes your body to have more difficulty regulating glucose, blood sugar, and other hormones necessary for a healthy metabolism. It makes sense that getting enough sleep is a risk factor for getting Type 2 diabetes as well as becoming obese. We all want our teens to be healthy, and not getting sleep can sabotage healthy choices.
What you can do right now: Spend the next few nights paying attention to how much sleep your teen actually gets (not just what time they go to bed!) Is it nine hours or more of good, restorative sleep? If it is, great! If not, stay tuned to learn how to help your teen get more, better quality sleep.