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May 2019: Help Youth Get Enough Sleep

Recent studies demonstrate that America’s adolescents routinely fail to get enough sleep. Adolescents need eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, yet nearly 60 percent of middle school students and more than 70 percent of high school students get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age. A lack of sleep causes an increased risk  for obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, attention and behavior problems, and poor academic performance. 

Why Our Children Aren’t Sleeping Enough

The reasons for adolescents’ sleep deficits are myriad and interrelated, and include the following: 

  • Puberty: During this stage (often beginning in middle school), most adolescents experience a sleep-wake delay, which can result in bed times shifting later by up to two hours.
  • Academic demands: School demands and homework increase as children get older. Children stay up later to finish their homework and study, which can affect their sleep habits. 
  • Screens: Blue light emitted from screens suppresses melatonin production, a hormone needed to control the circadian rhythm for waking and sleeping. Studies have found the effects of blue light on suppressing melatonin are greater for children than for adults. Additionally, some studies suggest that the use of smartphones and social media may also contribute to sleep problems among teens.
  • School start times: As adolescents get older, their school day often starts earlier, which shortens the potential time they have for sleeping. 

Expert Insights for Improving Sleep

  • Encourage ample sleep. For optimal health, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports guidelines that recommend children ages 6-12 sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours and teens ages 13-18 sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours. 
  • Designate tech-free times. Creating screen-free zones, such as turning off phones during mealtime or charging them outside the bedroom, may help improve family connectedness or sleep patterns.
  • Delay school start times. According to the AAP, delaying school start times can lead to improved academic performance and overall health outcomes for adolescents.

Spread the Word with These Posts

Children ages 6-12 should sleep 9-12 hours a day and teens ages 13-18 should sleep 8-10 hours a day. https://bit.ly/2tIvNwf @AmerAcadPeds #SleepHealth #AdolescentHealth 

Check out these 10 tips for helping your adolescent sleep better: https://tinyurl.com/y9hvh4sn via @UMichMedicine #SleepHealth

Families: Encourage your teens to get enough sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Check out more ideas for improving #AdolescentHealth: https://tinyurl.com/y2bhk6qv #SleepHealth #TAG42Mil

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on June 17, 2019