When it comes to getting the recommended 8-10 hours of quality sleep each night, many teenagers are falling short.

“Teens actually need more sleep than younger kids because their brains are extremely busy during the day,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “They have a lot of hormonal changes that are happening, and they still have brain tissue developing all the way into their twenties, so it’s a very metabolically demanding time of life and therefore it requires sleep.”

Quality sleep is important
Sleep deprivation adds up over time and can lead to irritability, stress, and trouble in school, as well as an increased risk for accidents, injuries and illness.

There are many reasons why teens are not sleeping as well as they should. For starters, during the teen years, the body’s internal sleep clock is reset to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning, which often leads to catching up on sleep during the weekend. But this irregularity can make getting to sleep at a reasonable hour during the week even more difficult. In addition, using technology, including smartphones, computers, and TV, can make it hard to fall asleep. Dr. Bradshaw says another cause of sleepless nights for teens is anxiety.

“We’re seeing a tsunami of anxious teens and it often catches up with them in the form of insomnia. When you’re anxious, those anxious thoughts tend to creep in when you’re lying down at night, when you’re quieting your body and then your anxiety is really able to blossom.”

How can I help my teen sleep better?
To help improve sleep, Dr. Bradshaw offers parents and teens these tips:

  • Strive for a regular bedtime that provides at least eight hours of sleep.
  • Avoid exercise, caffeine and large meals before bedtime.
  • Practice meditation or other before-bed techniques that quiet the mind.
  • Use an alarm clock that is separate from your phone.
  • Turn off all electronic devices 1-2 hours before bed.

“Teenagers really want to connect with their friends, especially following this COVID period of real isolation,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “But it’s not normal to be on-call for your friends 24/7, so talk with your teenagers about why it’s important to turn your devices off at a reasonable hour and then you can pick up with your friends again the next day.”

If your teen is having trouble sleeping be sure to talk with your pediatrician.