Teenagers and Sleep

Apr 07, 2020

What is the right amount of sleep for a teenager to be getting at night?

It is recommended that teenagers get between 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night, ideally 9 hours.  I know...this seems like a lot!  The reason for this is that they are still having a lot of physical, emotional and brain growth which really does require this much sleep on a consistent basis. 

I know that for you, as the parent of a teenager, it can be a struggle to get them to understand this and just as much of a struggle to get them to go to bed early enough that they can sleep for 8 – 10 hours.  As you know, there are multiple things that can impact your teen’s ability to go to bed early earlier.  They often have a lot of homework, have sports or other extra-curricular activities that take place later in the evening and of course teens also want to stay up to watch television or movies, play video games or chat and text with their friends.

If your teen is used to staying up later, it will be a challenge to get them to go to bed earlier, however, it IS possible to get them on an earlier sleep schedule.  What it will take is consistency.  Think about how much better you feel when you get 8 or more hours of sleep multiple nights in a row.  As a parent…do you even remember what this feels like? 


Below are some tips that can help you in getting your teenager to bed and asleep earlier to get them closer to that goal of 9 hours of sleep each night.  If you, as the parent, are also not getting close to 8 hours of sleep, give these a try yourself!

Adjust the lighting.  When possible, dim the lighting in your house at 8 or 9pm.  Simply doing can create a more relaxing environment which makes it easier to fall asleep.

Try to not let them nap.  Many teenagers are tired after school and come home and nap.  This does not give them the time they need to refresh and results in their going to bed later and continuing in this cycle. If they are used to napping, this will be a challenge.  Try to plan some things after school for a week that will help keep them awake and distracted so that they do not have the time to nap.  They will be tired going into the later evening which increase the chance that they will fall asleep earlier.

Help them avoid caffeine.  This will interfere with their sleep. Teenagers should not be relying on caffeine to wake them up in the morning.  If they get enough sleep, they will wake up feeling rested.  If you do have a teen who has caffeine in the morning, do what you can to help them avoid it after the morning.  Caffeine can have long lasting effects that result in your teen not being able to fall asleep until much later at night which will make these other tips less effective.

Reduce sugar intake.  Like caffeine, you want to make sure that your teenager has little to no sugar later in the day.  It will spike their energy which will make it challenging for them to fall asleep.

Encourage regular physical activity.  In addition to being good for overall physical health, getting regular physical activity will help your teen feel ready to go to sleep earlier.  As much as possible, encourage them to do something where they are moving their body, to the extent they are able, for thirty or more minutes per day.

Teach calming techniques.  Try to help your teenager find an activity that helps them relax at night.  It could be listening to certain music, using a soothing sent like vanilla or lavender, taking a warm shower, meditation or progressive relaxation, drinking warm, decaffeinated tea or reading.  It will vary based on your teen’s interests so encourage them to try a few different things and find one or two that work well.

Keep a schedule.  Keeping a consistent sleep schedule can be difficult but trying to have your teen going to bed and wake up during the week at the same time will help their body adjust to falling asleep earlier.  Also, not allowing them to stay up too late or sleep too late or all day on the weekends will further help with this.

Unplug at night.  Set a time for all electronics to be turned off and stick with it.  Remove them if you need to or set up a system where all wireless connections shut down at a certain time each night (one of our readers has done this with her 12 year old and it has made a world of difference for her family).  Another tip if your teen will be on electronics into the evening is to have them set their screen display to go into Night Shift mode at a certain time each day.  This changes the screen from blue tones (which keep us alert and negatively impact sleep), to warm tones.

Be a good role model.  As adults our bodies are not growing and changing the way a teen’s body is, however, we also need to make sure we are getting a good night’s sleep whenever possible.  As you address your teen’s sleep needs, try to address your own also if needed.

If you want to read more about how lack of sleep impacts adults, teenagers and children, check out my How To Parent A Teen Facebook page for the link to a Harvard Medical School article that dives into this topic on a deeper level.

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