Reality Scoop: Importance of Sleep for Teens

Sleep is so important for teens because they are always on the go with school, sports, projects, and the many activities in their lives.  Ever notice how sleepy they are too?  It’s almost as though they are going through life clamoring for more sleep.  Research from the UCLA Sleep Disorders Center shows that most teens can’t get enough sleep.  They are at an important stage in their growth and development and they need more sleep than grown ups.  According to the Sleep Disorder Center, the average teen should get at least nine of hours of sleep to feel sharp and rested the next day.  Take into consideration that there are different factors that can keep teens from having ample time for sleeping.  Some causes that may cause teens to lose sleep are:

  • Changes in their bodies
  • Overloaded schedules
  • Exertive social lives
  • Confused perspective of sleep

The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences & Medicine has done extensive evaluations of teens with sleep problems.  Their conclusion is that teens that have issues with sleep have had these problems long before they were teens.  Unfortunately, the sleep patterns of teens are usually very set and it is hard for them to increase sleep.  Therefore, these issues with sleep can progress into their adulthood.

reality scoop- importance of sleep for teens
CC image via Flickr user Lucas Arrrrgh


Statistics from the National Sleep Foundation show surprising information on teens:

  • Teens need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night to function best during the day.  Only 15% of teens reported sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights.
  • Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns and typically stay up late and sleep in late on weekends, which can damage the quality of their sleep patterns.
  • Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, or sleep apnea.

Here are a few things that can help teens to try and fit in a bit more sleep into their schedules:

  • Turn off all electronic devices before going to sleep Electronic screens emit a glow called “blue light” at a particular frequency that sends “a signal to the brain which suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps teens from feeling tired.
  • Stay away from caffeine and snacks before bedtime.  These can harmfully postpone sleep.
  • Relieve pressure by reducing daily activities.
  • Streamline morning schedule to allow for more sleep time.
  • Work on assignments more productively by taking breaks and cut work into smaller pieces.

Here are a few realistic young adult fiction books that focus on teens with sleep disorders or problems with sleep and how it affects their lives and the people around them.

Althea and Oliver Christina MorachoAlthea & Oliver by Christina Moracho 2015 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults

Althea and Oliver have been best friends since they were six years old.  She’s the rowdy one and he’s the peaceful mediator and the only one who can calm her down.  As their junior year is wrapping up, Althea decides she wants to make their relationship more than just friends.  Oliver is fine with things the way they are, which leaves them in sort of a strange vortex.  Suddenly, Oliver is plagued with a sleeping problem and has to face the fact that something is very wrong.  He takes off to go to a clinical sleep study in New York and Althea chases after him in her beat up Camry.  Together again they must face their future together and take a chance on what might or might not be true love.  Set in the mid-1990’s, this witty coming of age story will bend your heart with the surprising realness that it releases.

What happened to goodbyeWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen  2012 Teens’ Top Ten award

Mclean Sweet has moved around a lot since her parents bitter divorce.  She says she doesn’t mind the moves, she thinks of it as a chance to reinvent herself each time she goes to a new school.  She can be a peppy cheerleader, serious drama student, and even the girl next door.  That is until she meets Dave.  He’s got something that she thinks is worth putting down roots for.  Both Mclean and Dave have a hard time sleeping at night.  They have so much on their minds, Mclean her parents problems and Dave his studies and the pressure his parents put on him to be smart and overachieve.  Mclean is scared that she is falling for Dave, but after everything she’s been through watching her parents marriage crumble, she’s seriously afraid to find out for real.  Sarah Dessen does a wonderful job portraying teens that face the realistic pressures of family pressures and love.

What we saw at night Jacqueline MitchardWhat We Saw At Night by Jacqueline Mitchard 

They stay up all night long, catching up on fun games and playing outside in the dark.  They must avoid the sun at all costs.  Sleep is not something they are used to. They must navigate their way around in the shadows and avoid the light.  If you are thinking this is another young adult book about teen vampires you guessed wrong. What We Saw At Night is about a group of teenagers who suffer from the real world genetic disorder Xeroderma Pigmentosum. Allie Kim and her friends all have a rare allergy that keeps them confined during the day.  Because of this they let loose at night until one of them sees something that looks very much like a murder.  Allie worries that because of her lack of sleep she may have been seeing things that weren’t really there.  She decides to look into the mystery further and as she navigates through the nighttime shadows to uncover the secret she shakes up her whole life and ends up trusting no one.

Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff book coverPlaces No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff

Waverly is an insomniac over-achiever, part of the popular crowd who hides her true feelings during the day and runs until she can’t think at night. One night she falls asleep and dreams herself into the life of Marshall, a slacker nobody to whom she’s inexplicably drawn. Narrated from both character’s point of view, this compelling, fast-paced novel is tinged with magic.


— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading Solitaire by Alice Oseman