Is your teen getting enough sleep?

29 October 2016
Reading time3 mins

It’s a well-documented battle: Teen needs to get up for high school, parents encourage teen out of cosy bed, teen grumbles. For some, it’s an everyday occurrence. And, it seems, for good reason.

While some parents put this sloth-like behaviour down to laziness, there is actually a biological reason that teens are often reluctant to open their eyes at silly o’clock in the morning (unlike our seemingly semi-nocturnal toddlers).

Adults need an average of eight hours sleep a night, but for teens, that increases to up to 9.25 hours of sleep, according to the Raising Children Network. It is also thought that puberty’s effect on teenage hormones can mean that a teen’s circadian rhythms change and they are naturally more suited to going to bed later and waking up later. This can lead to teens not getting enough sleep, which leaves them tired, irritable and less likely to be jumping out of bed for school early in the morning.

It also throws into question the validity of early school start times for teens. In the US, some schools have trialled later start times for their teenage students. And the results in some cases are quite surprising. One study found that as well as seemingly increasing academic performance, a later school start time for teens decreased their use of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. In light of such studies, organisations such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have thrown their support behind school start times for teens of 8.30am or even later. Read more here.

In Australia, however, early high school starts are still common. So, how can you ensure your teen is getting enough sleep, even when early school start times are destined to thwart their rest? The National Sleep Foundation in the US gives this advice:

  • Encourage them to keep a sleep diary. They can monitor their sleep and identify the things that might be getting in the way of a good night’s kip.
  • Encourage them to take a nap, but make sure it’s not too close to bedtime, or too long.
  • Keep their room dark and cool at night but be sure to open those curtains and let the light flood in in the morning as it will help stimulate their body to wake up.
  • Tell them not to drink caffeine, exercise, watch television/have screen time or do homework close to bedtime as these activities will stimulate their brain.
  • Get them to stick to a bedtime routine. Having a consistent bedtime and wake up time will help their body get into a natural rhythm. Try to discourage lie-ins on a weekend as it will be harder for them to readjust when it’s time for school on a Monday.
  • Get them to write a to-do list. Thinking about the things they have to do might keep them awake worrying.

For more tips, see

Read our article on 5 tips to raising awesome teenagers here.

Written by

Kerry White

Kerry is the Senior Writer for Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City. Kerry moved to Australia from England in 2013 with her husband and two daughters. She worked as a sub-editor in London for seven years before she had her girls. She now calls the Sunshine Coast her home and is making the most of its glorious weather and beaches. She enjoys baking, especially when she has a glass of wine in hand, and is a part-time Psychology, Criminology and Justice student. She also shares her home with two cats and her daughters' imaginary dogs.

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