Is Lack of Sleep Impacting Teen Mental Health?

Healthy sleep behaviors significantly impact teens' mental health. Most teens don't get enough sleep. Parents can encourage better sleep habits.
teen boy falling asleep with his laptop

In response to National Sleep Awareness week, the National Sleep Foundation has released data about how health sleep behaviors are closely linked to mental health in teenagers. In fact, 80% of teens who earn a grade of “B” or higher for practicing healthy sleep behaviors are also free of significant depressive symptoms.

The NSF research also has identified the following realities in their recent surveys:

  • 8 out of every 10 teens don’t get enough sleep.
  • The typical teen gets an ‘F’ grade for practicing healthy sleep behaviors.
  • Teens who have trouble falling or staying asleep 2 or more nights a week have significantly more depressive symptoms.
  • Almost ¾ of teens say their emotional well-being is negatively impacted when they sleep less than usual.

Sleep research suggests that a teenager needs between eight and 10 hours of sleep every night. This is more than the amount a child or an adult needs. Yet most adolescents only get about 6.5 – 7.5 hours sleep per night, and some get less. Regularly not getting enough sleep leads to chronic sleep deprivation.

Issues like homework, sports, part-time work and social commitments can cut into a teenager’s sleeping time. Leisure activities, the lure of stimulating entertainment such as television, the internet and computer gaming can keep a teenager out of bed. There is so much opportunity on social media to stay up into the late hours which can dominate in a teenager’s life.

Some suggestions for parents and caregivers to help teenagers improve their quality of sleep are commonly suggested as follows:

  • Allow your child to sleep in on the weekends.
  • Encourage an early night every Sunday. A late night on Sunday followed by an early Monday morning will make your child drowsy for the start of the school week.
  • Decide together on appropriate time limits for any stimulating activity such as homework or screen time. Encourage restful activities during the evening, such as reading.
  • Avoid early morning appointments, classes or training sessions for your child if possible.
  • Help your teenager to better schedule their after-school commitments to free up time for rest and sleep.
  • Assess your teenager’s weekly schedule together and see if they are overcommitted. Help them to trim activities if they are.
  • Encourage your teen to take an afternoon nap after school to help recharge their battery, if they have time.
  • Work together to adjust your teenager’s body clock. You may like to consult with your doctor first.

As we encounter significant concerns at a national level for the mental health of our teenagers, it is important to maximize every advantage that we can give them. Healthy sleep habits are a major part of their everyday life and performance. Yet the competing issues to quality sleep are prevalent.

Many of us may not recognize how connected their sleep may be to their mental health and ability to be resilient to the many complexities of their lives in today’s society. This awareness can help us better help them to consider some positive changes to their sleep routines.

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