Why Sleep is Essential for the Changes of Adolescence

Getting the right amount of sleep can have major implications on a teen’s emotional, psychological and physical well being. And sleep is incredibly significant because of the dramatic changes in growth that a teen is undergoing.


Early adolescence is a time of puberty, where the physical maturation process is underway. Alongside this, the emotional and psychological maturing is taking place too. Meanwhile in the brain, there are new neural connections forming having to do with drive, motivation, and emotions. Those drives and emotions have been present all along; however, puberty intensifies them. And for some teens, this intensity can be quite dramatic.


Yet, while the emotions, creativity, and curiosity for life are in full swing, the logical part of the brain is lagging behind. A teen’s rational, thinking brain will not show up until later in life, which can help keep those strong emotions in check. In fact, this part of the brain won’t fully develop for teens until they reach 23 years of age. Until then, teens might be emotionally reactive, impulsive, and riskier than usual.


A pivotal component to a teen’s health and growth is getting the right amount of sleep. 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. Although it might be easy for adults to set a schedule of going to bed at 10pm and waking at 6am, this sort of schedule might be hard for teens to implement on their own.


What can parents do to support their teens in a regular sleep schedule so that it doesn’t create unnecessary academic issues or other disturbances in a teen’s life? Parents can create a sleep schedule for their teen, keeping them to a regular routine of waking and sleeping. The truth is that teens, or more specifically children between the ages of 10 to 17, need more than just 8 hours of sleep. It’s frequently known that adults need a full eight hours of sleep to feel rested and rejuvenated. But for children, who are still developing in a myriad ways, they need more sleep. In fact, children and teens need about 9 to 9 ½ hours of sleep each night.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is food for the brain. If an adolescent, for example, needs to get up at 6am in order to be at school on time, they need to go to bed at 9pm. With this schedule, they will get 9 hours of sleep at night. However, it’s common for teens to sleep less than this, and when this happens regularly, there can be some health costs. The National Sleep Foundation points out that, for teens, there are some obvious consequences to not getting the right amount of sleep:

  • 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.


Although most teens need about 9 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep, some sleep as much as 12 or 13 hours. It seems they go to bed at a late hour and then don’t wake up well into the next day. Typically, their sleep pattern is different than most children and adults. Teens can sleep either for too many or too little hours and don’t seem to have any concern about the amount of sleep they’re getting. For this reason, it’s important for parents to help their teen stick to a regular schedule by keeping in mind the unique amount of sleep their child needs.


A regular schedule can help teens with getting the right amount of rest. If sleeping becomes a challenge, parents can remove the distractions in the bedroom such as a television or computer. It’s well known among experts of teen health that those adolescents who feel supported at home and school sleep better. And those who sleep better function well in their lives.