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How Much Sleep Do Teens Need Each Night?

Published: 09 September 2008
Dear TeenHealthFX,
What's a good amount of sleep for a teen to get a night? Because I've been getting about 7 hours a night, but I'm so tired in the morning I have to sleep through part of class just to make it through the day. I also have to nap for about 3 hours when I get home. So, how much sleep should I actually be getting a night?
Signed: How Much Sleep Do Teens Need Each Night?

Dear How Much Sleep Do Teens Need Each Night?,

 

Adolescents are generally recommended to get between at least 8.5 and 9 hours of sleep each night – and some teens might find they need even more than this. Part of what can make getting enough sleep difficult for teens is that their biological clocks are actually set differently than adults, and this internal clock tells them to fall asleep later and sleep later. This internal clock can be very difficult during this stage of life considering what time a lot of teens tend to fall asleep and then how early teens have to be up for school. So the issue you raise about sleep is a common one for adolescents, many of whom ask themselves if they are getting enough sleep and how they can get more sleep in if they need to.

 

So how can you tell if you are getting enough sleep? There are some definite signs that you may be feeling sleep deprived. These signs include:

  • Difficultly waking up in the morning.
  • Difficulties concentrating.
  • Falling asleep while at school.
  • Feeling moody, irritable, or depressed.  

If you are feeling sleep-deprived, it raises the question of what can be done to feel more rested. There are definite steps you can take, which include:

  • Set a regular bedtime. Making a conscious effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (including weekends) helps your body to establish a set sleeping pattern. It’s tempting for teens to stay up very late and sleep in on the weekends, but try not to go to sleep more than an hour later than you normally do or wake up more than 2-3 hours later than you do during the week.
  • Think about any changes you might need to make to you sleeping environment. Studies show that people sleep best in rooms that are dark and on the cool side.
  • Make your evenings less “stimulating.” Stay away from drinks with caffeine, such as soda, coffee, and certain teas. Some people are also affected by foods with chocolate or coffee products, such as coffee ice cream. Remember that nicotine is also a stimulant – so if you smoke, being able to get a good night sleep is just another reason to quit. FX certainly does not support underage drinking, however if you are making the choice to drink remember that alcoholic beverages can actually cause a person to be more restless, more prone to waking up in the night, and less able to fall into a deep sleep.
  • Don’t get all wound up before bed. Participating in activities that really stimulate the brain (such as watching a scary or action-packed movie) can make it harder to sleep. Instead find something that helps you to unwind before bed, such as turning the lights down low, meditating, listening to soothing music, doing muscle relaxation or guided imagery work, or anything else that helps to calm your body and mind.
  • Cut back on the naps. If you are napping more than 30 minutes a day, it will most likely make it harder for you to sleep soundly at night.
  • Plan out your school work. Try to plan your homework and studying in way where you will not have to stay up late or all night cramming.
  • Make necessary changes to your exercise routine. Do not exercise right before bed, as this could energize you and make it even harder to fall asleep. Instead try to exercise at least 5-6 hours before you go to bed.

  

There are many reasons (associated with lifestyle, physical health, or mental health) why people may constantly feel fatigued or with low energy, or may have trouble sleeping well. If you make some of the changes listed above and find you are still having issues around sleep and feeling rested, FX recommends that you speak with your primary care physician about your concerns to see if there are any underlying problems contributing to your fatigue.

 

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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