How Much Sleep Do I Need?

How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Most teens need about 8½ to more than 9 hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for anyone who wants to do well on a test or play sports without stumbling. Unfortunately, though, many teens don't get enough sleep.

Why Don't Teens Get Enough Sleep?

Until recently, teens often got a bad rap for staying up late, oversleeping for school, and falling asleep in class. But recent studies show that adolescent sleep patterns actually differ from those of adults or kids.

Experts say that during the teen years, the body's circadian rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is temporarily reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. This change might be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.

These changes in the body's circadian rhythm coincide with a busy time in life. For most teens, the pressure to do well in school is more intense than when they were kids, and it's harder to get by without studying hard. And teens also have other time demands — everything from sports and other extracurricular activities to working a part-time job to save money for college.

Early start times in some schools also might play a role in lost sleep. Teens who fall asleep after midnight may still have to get up early for school, meaning that they might squeeze in only 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night. A few hours of missed sleep a night may not seem like a big deal, but it can create a noticeable sleep deficit over time.

Why Is Sleep Important?

A sleep deficit affects everything from someone's ability to pay attention in class to his or her mood. According to a National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll, more than 25% of high school students fall asleep in class, and experts have tied lost sleep to poorer grades. Lack of sleep also damages teens' ability to do their best in athletics.

Slowed responses and dulled concentration from lack of sleep don't just affect school or sports performance, though. More than half of teens surveyed reported that they have driven a car while drowsy over the past year and 15% said they drove drowsy at least once a week. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration estimates that more than 100,000 accidents, 40,000 injuries, and 1,500 people are killed in the U.S. every year in crashes caused by drivers who are simply tired. Young people under the age of 25 are far more likely to be involved in drowsy driving crashes.

Lack of sleep also is linked to emotional troubles, such as feelings of sadness and depression. Sleep helps keep us physically healthy, too, by slowing the body's systems to re-energize us for everyday activities.

Am I Getting Enough Sleep?

Even if you think you're getting enough sleep, you might not be. Here are some of the signs that you may need more sleep:

How Can I Get More Sleep?

Some researchers, parents, and teachers have suggested that middle- and high-school classes begin later in the morning to accommodate teens' need for more sleep. Some schools have implemented later start times. You and your friends, parents, and teachers can lobby for later start times at your school, but in the meantime you'll have to make your own adjustments.

Here are some things that may help you to sleep better:

If you're drowsy, it's hard to look and feel your best. Schedule "sleep" as an item on your agenda to help you stay creative and healthy.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2013





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) AASM strives to increase awareness of sleep disorders in public and professional communities.
OrganizationNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) NHTSA is the government agency responsible for ensuring and improving automobile and traffic safety.
OrganizationAmerican Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) The ASAA is dedicated to reducing injury, disability, and death from sleep apnea and to enhancing the well-being of those affected by this common disorder.
OrganizationInternational Association for the Study of Dreams This organization promotes the study of dreams and the significance, nature, and function of dreaming.
Web SiteNational Sleep Foundation (NSF) NSF is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting education, sleep-related research, and advocacy.
Related Articles
What Should I Do If I Can't Sleep? Find out what the experts have to say.
What Teens Say About Sleep We know what the experts think: The right amount of sleep is essential for teens. But what's happening in the real world? We ran a survey to find out. Here are the results.
Common Sleep Problems Sleep problems can keep some teens awake at night even when they want to sleep. If that sounds like you, find out what you can do.
Am I Waking Up Too Early? Find out what the experts have to say.
Is It Possible to Get Too Much Sleep? Find out what the experts have to say.
Is it OK to Sleep Less on Weekdays and More on Weekends? Find out what the experts have to say.
5 Ideas for Better Sleep Insomnia can be a big problem for teens. Read our tips on getting a good night's sleep.
Stress There's good stress and bad stress. Find out what's what and learn practical ways to cope in this article.
Caffeine Caffeine has probably helped you through long nights of studying or filling out college applications. But how much do you know about caffeine and its side effects?
Technology: 5 Ways To Reboot Yourself Sending and receiving messages late at night can disrupt your sleep and leave you tired and unfocused when it's time for school.
iGrow iGrow
Sign up for our parent enewsletter