The Importance of Adequate Sleep for Adolescents

An adolescent girl sleeps on a couch.

Sleep is considered one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, with the others being nutrition and exercise. We are currently in the midst of “The Great Sleep Recession” (Pelayo, 2021) where 73% of high school students and 58% of middle school students are not getting adequate sleep (Jenco, 2018). Students who have adequate sleep regularly are shown to have improved attention, emotional regulation, behavior, memory, learning, physical health, mental health, and quality of life (AASM, 2021). 

How much sleep should my child be getting?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children ages 6 to 12 receive 9-12 hours of sleep a night and teenagers ages 13 to 18 receive 8-10 hours of sleep (AASM, n.d.). If your teenager wakes up at 6:00, they should be getting to bed between 7:45 and 9:25 pm, adding 15 minutes to allow for time to fall asleep. Sleep calculators are available online where you can input your child’s age and desired time to wake up or go to sleep ( The calculator incorporates sleep cycles, and waking up at the end of a sleep cycle will help your child feel more refreshed, versus waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle which may contribute to them feeling groggy.

Consequences of inadequate sleep for adolescents

A meta-analysis (quantitative study of several research studies) which included more than 500,000 teenagers found an inverse relationship between the length of sleep and suicidality in teenagers– For every one hour increase in sleep, the risk of suicide plans decreased by 11% (Pelayo, 2021). Insufficient sleep is also linked to cognitive difficulties which affect school performance, an increase in automobile accidents, worsening mood disorders, and symptoms of ADHD (Pelayo, 2021). Insufficient sleep is also correlated with poorer food choices. A recent study of 93 teenagers who were tracked during a week when they were in bed for 6 ½ hours and during a week they were in bed for 9 ½ hours found that though their overall amount of calories was the same, during the week they received less sleep they consumed more junk food, perhaps because they were seeking for quick bursts of energy that are found in carbs and sugar (Stahle, 2021). Not getting adequate sleep is also associated with daytime fatigue, daytime sleepiness, depressed mood, and poorer functioning (Chaput et al, 2018). 

Health for our children and teenagers includes adequate sleep and should be a priority. For more tips on helping your family get adequate sleep, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some helpful guidelines:


AASM (2021, April 21). Healthy sleep is vital to children’s well-being.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (n.d.) Sleep FAQs.

Chaput, J-P, Dutil C, & Sampasa-Kanyinga, H. (2018). Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this?

Jenco, M. (January 25, 2018). Study: 735 of high school students not getting enough sleep.

Stahle, T. (December 27, 2021). Teens not getting enough sleep may consume 4.5 extra pounds of sugar during a school year says BYU research.

Kim Abbott, PMHNP

Kim Abbott, PMHNP

Kim practices pediatrics in our Bluffdale office.

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