Parents: Make Sure Your Teen Doesn’t Rack up a Sleep Debt

Most teens start their school day at 7 or 8am. And many of them are going to sleep at 11pm or midnight. This leaves many adolescents getting six hours of sleep or less. And over time, teens slowly develop a sleep debt. The amount of sleep they are getting night after night isn’t enough for optimal functioning of their bodies and brains.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is food for the brain. Ideally, if an adolescent gets up at 6am in order to be at school on time, he or she should go to bed at 9pm. With this schedule, they will get 9 hours of sleep at night. However, when teens get 7 hours of sleep or less and this happens on a regular basis, there can be some health costs. These can include:

  • Limited ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems.
  • Forgetfulness with names, numbers, appointments, and completing assignments.
  • Development of acne and other skin problems.
  • Aggressive and inappropriate behavior.
  • Poor eating habits and possible weight gain
  • Possible increased use of alcohol and nicotine
  • Stress-related illnesses
  • Danger of not using equipment safely and driving while feeling tired.


Because there is a significant amount of physical, emotional, and psychological growth taking place for adolescents, their ideal amount of sleep is more than what the average adult needs. Teens, or more specifically children between the ages of 10 to 17, need more than just 8 hours of sleep to feel rested and rejuvenated. But for children, who are still developing in a myriad ways, they need a significant amount of additional sleep. In fact, children and teens need about 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep each night.


Parents can support their teens in establishing a regular sleep schedule so that it doesn’t create unnecessary academic issues or other disturbances in a teen’s life. They can encourage their teen to go to bed at the same time and wake at the same time each morning. Although some parents might want to give their children the autonomy to create their own sleep schedule, most teens likely won’t be able to manage this on their own. Most teens will want to stay up later and sleep in longer. It’s important that teens and parents discuss the benefits of sleeping well so that a teen can participate in his or her own sleep hygiene, avoiding the creation of a sleep debt.


Furthermore, in addition to having a set sleep schedule, the following suggestions can also contribute to an adolescent’s overall wellbeing.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Only use the bed for sleeping.
  • Turn the TV or computer off about an hour before sleep.
  • Eat well.
  • Exercise.
  • Sleep in a comfortable environment.


These tips along with sleeping 9 to 9 ½ hours at night can keep a teen’s brain and body functioning at optimal levels for academic performance, physical health, and emotional well being.