Back to School, but Not Back to Sleep?

Jess Rocheleau
September 8, 2021

Teens are so full of potential, so full of life, so…sleepy. Teens need sleep. And a lot of it!

Parents, we get the frustrating feeling when your teenager has the tendency to stay up late and sleep the entire next day away. Don’t fret, there is a reason for it and it’s not laziness or being irresponsible. Teenagers’ bodies are going through critical growth and development both brain and body that shift their internal clocks and require more shut-eye. 

How Much Sleep Do Teens Need?

Teens need 9 to 9½ hours of sleep per night. This is an hour or so more than they needed at age 10. Why? Teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation. The brain is formulating the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, the ability to differentiate conflicting thoughts, determine good and bad, future consequences of current actions, working toward goals, prediction of outcome, manage expectations, and overall long-term thinking. These changes occur at a faster rate than at any other time in their lives. 

It is critical that teens get the sleep they need during this stage of their lives. Without it, it can disrupt physical growth, the developing brain, and more at risk to suffer from depression.


If You Take Your Sleep Serious, So Will Your Teen. 

We know that preaching to teenagers is never a productive path to accomplish anything. Lead by example. Begin by modeling good behavior. 

Start with sticking to a regular sleep schedule:

  • Go to sleep at the same time every night
  • Wake up at the same time every morning
  • Set a soothing bedtime routine
  • Exercise regularly
  • Adhere to a balanced/healthy diet
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon


It is important to educate teens on what is happening within their brains and body for them to better understand just how crucial it is to prioritize sleep during this time. Educating teens begins with gaining knowledge for yourself.


Research is showing that teens are not getting the sleep they need. This may be due to a variety of reasons including:

  • Lack of education on the importance of sleep
  • A bad view of sleep
  • Busy life schedules
  • Rapidly changing bodies
  • Staying up on electronic devices
  • Sleep disorders


It is very likely that any sleep problems developed by teens can carry over into their adult life if it isn’t addressed and solved. A lack of sleep can often be confused with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Check out How Does Sleep Affect ADHD – and Vice Versa? for further education on this topic.

Do you think your teen is sleep-deprived? Here are some things to look out for:

  • Has trouble waking up most mornings
  • Acts irritable in the early afternoon
  • Falls asleep easily during the day
  • Has a sudden drop in grades
  • Sleeps for very long periods on the weekends


Sleep StatisticCrashes related to drowsy driving take the lives of more than 1,550 people every year. These crashes are most often caused by young people under the age of 25.


Puberty Causes A Shift In Sleep

As the hormones for puberty begin to ramp up and spread through the body, they’re not just teaching the body to prepare for reproduction, the brain is also maturing. This process activates a shift in the sleep cycle known as “sleep phase delay.” This means instead of getting sleepy around 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm, teens are feeling the urge to sleep around 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm. This phase can be mistaken for insomnia as teens will feel as though they are having difficulties falling asleep.


It is important to note there that they will need at least 9 hours of sleep despite going to bed later, which means when your teen feels the need to sleep in, let them. They need it. This is a strong topic of discussion for high schools to begin later, to allow teens to get the sleep they need to thrive and succeed in all that high school life entails. 


The more teens resist or ignore this innate drive to sleep more, the transition their bodies are going through will be much more difficult and could potentially cause harm in the future. 


The fact that your teen is sleeping so much will be the reason he/she grows 6 inches in a year. Finding consistency of sleep during the week is important. Making up for sleep on the weekends will end up throwing off their body’s circadian rhythm even more. Their days should be planned around first getting in that optimal 9 hours of sleep first, and then everything else to follow. 

Tune into the video Puberty & Sleep: Changes To Expect in Adolescents for more information on this important topic.

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