Reasons for Sleep Deprivation in Teens & Kids

How to Foster Healthy Sleep Habitsin Children of All Ages

Why are teens so sleep deprived?

According to the Child Mind Institute, biology, technology, and societal expectations, including homework and extracurriculars, together create a perfect storm for chronic sleep deprivation.

Major contributors to adolescent sleep debt:

  • Biology: Along with the more obvious hormonal changes that transform your child into a teen are shifts in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. That is why your teenager actually seems more awake at midnight than at dinner, and left alone would probably sleep until ten or eleven. That is the normal circadian rhythm for 15- to 22-year-olds.
  • Technology: Electronics emit a glow called blue light that has a particular frequency. When it hits receptors in the eye, those receptors send a signal to the brain that suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps kids from feeling tired.
  • Over-scheduling: We live in a culture that values activity over sleep. Teens are constantly being told that they have to be “well-rounded,” which means that the more they do, the better their college applications will look.

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While teenagers need 9.25 hours of sleep to be optimally alert, multiple studies have shown that the vast majority today are living with borderline to sleep deprivation.

  • According to a 2010 large-scale study published in The Journal of Adolescent Health, only 8 percent of U.S. high school students get the recommended amount of sleep.
  • Some 23 percent get six hours of sleep on an average school night.
  • 10 percent get only five hours.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Teenage Brain

What are the consequences for sleep deprived teenagers?

According to an article from the Child Mind Institute, sleep deprivation puts teenagers into a kind of perpetual cloud or haze. That haze can negatively affect a teenager’s mood, as well as ability to think, react, regulate their emotions, learn, and get along with adults.

Half the teens one expert evaluated were so tired in the morning that they showed the same symptoms as patients with narcolepsy, a sleep disorder in which the patient nods off and falls directly into REM sleep.

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Creating Healthy Sleep Habits for Children

What about younger kids who aren’t getting enough sleep?

Along with nutrition and exercise, healthy sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, according to Sleep Education for School. Healthy sleep is especially important to a child’s growth and development. Children who sleep well are healthier and happier. They also are more alert and ready to learn in the classroom.

As a teacher you play an important role in helping your students develop healthy sleep habits that will last a lifetime. With your help, your students can begin to understand that bedtime is the best time of the day.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) encourages you to download this free poster for display in your classroom. We hope the poster sparks your students’ imagination and gets them thinking about the importance of sleep.

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Additional Resources

Explore these other helpful resources for educators about sleep deprivation in teens and kids: