The teenage years are often wrought with stress, confusion, and plenty of change. In order for the body to keep up with the teenager’s increased pace, it must sleep in order to recharge, revive, and grow. Sleep is the body’s way of feeding the body and the mind. When sleep is sacrificed, basic motor functions begin to suffer, including concentration and coordination. The longer the body goes without sleep, the more of a toll that will be taken on the teen’s mind and body. This is of particular importance during the school year, when concentration and coordination are paramount to high school success. Without sleep, grades can begin to suffer, athletic abilities can begin to suffer, and personal relationships can begin to suffer. Along with concentration and coordination, a lack of sleep can also have a negative impact on a person’s emotional stability. Those who force themselves to function throughout their day, fighting back yawns and struggling to keep the eye lids open, often come off as moody, aggressive, or generally rude.

Many teens believe that they don’t need as much sleep as their peers because, for some reason, they just don’t feel tired earlier in the evening anymore. The reason for this is actually biological. During adolescence a teen’s internal sleep patterns actually shift. This means that the body does not start producing the necessary chemicals to put the body to sleep until later in the evening, which is why most teens can’t fall asleep before 10:00 or 11:00 pm. This kind of shift in sleep patterns is normal, but it is not an indication that the teenage body is meant to stay up all night. It also does not mean that the teen must remain up until their body tells them they are tired. Just like every other amazing thing that the body can do, it can also be trained, over time, to fall asleep when the person chooses. This is the same theory that makes it possible for folks to work graveyard shifts.

Experts recommend that teens get just over nine hours of sleep per night. Not just on weekends or during summer vacation, but every night. For some teens, about 8 ½ hours will be enough sleep to function at the top of their game, but for the rest, an additional 45 minutes will be required. Irregular sleep patterns can hinder a person’s efforts to regulate their sleep cycle, so teens should aim for getting the same amount of rest (just over nine hours), every night, even on weekends. Over time, teens who are able to regulate their sleep schedule will notice less of a desire to sleep in and more of a willingness to get out of bed in the morning ready to start the day fully rested and refreshed.

If a teen is having trouble in school, at work, or with any other responsibilities in their lives, parents are encouraged to inquire about sleep patterns and possible sleep problems.

Parents should do what they can to encourage a regular sleep schedule for their teen. If the teen hasn’t mentioned anything about sleeping problems, but they consistently display symptoms of a sleep-deprived person, parents should approach the issue non-confrontationally and in a way that makes the teen feel secure and comfortable. Approaching the problem together, instead of making the teen solve the problem on their own, will help everybody get to the root of the problem. Once the source of the problem is pinpointed, possible treatment options can begin. If sleep regulation doesn’t remedy the situation, contact your pediatrician for further guidance, as specific tests may be required to determine what kind of sleep disorder, if any, is causing the teen’s problems.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Marshall J. Littman is a San Diego Pediatrician who has been in practice for 35 years. He is also a member of Children's Physicians Medical Group.