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At an important time in their lives for growth and maturity, teenagers require at least 8 ½ hours of sleep every night.

However, studies show that only 15% of teens are getting the necessary amount of sleep they need to function. This is shocking because it is an indication that sleep is a widespread problem for adolescents. It also means that many parents are not making sleep a priority in the lives of their teens.

Teenagers require adequate sleep each night in order to be well rested for school, work and sports. A good night's sleep can have a remarkable effect on your teen's concentration and performance.

Identifying Sleep Trouble in Teens

Sleep can have a major impact on the way your teen acts and feels throughout the day. As a parent, you should know and understand warning signs that your teen may not be getting enough sleep:

  • Trouble waking up most mornings
  • Irritability in the early afternoon
  • Sleepy during the day
  • Sudden drop in grades or sports performance
  • Long periods of oversleeping on the weekends

Be careful, as sometimes the warning signs of a lack of sleep can overlap with common symptoms of ADHD. The most common signs of a sleep problem that are also common ADHD symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nervousness
  • Aggressive Behavior

While it can be a challenge, parents must help their teen find a balance that makes sleep a priority in their daily schedules. If you are confused about interpreting any warning signs that you suspect may be related to your teen's sleep schedule, contact your health care provider.

Finding the Cause of Poor Sleep

There are a number of legitimate medical conditions that can negatively affect the way teens sleep at night.


This sleep disorder causes people to feel extremely tired during the daytime. Narcoleptic individuals may fall asleep suddenly at any given moment.

These moments of extreme fatigue can occur even while eating, walking or driving. This disorder most commonly affects individuals between the ages of 15 and 25.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This medical condition is caused by a blockage of air to the lungs during sleep. Those with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) experience the collapse of tissue in the back of the throat that normally should relax during sleep.

The frequency at which this occurs can be random and often affects young men who are overweight. The pauses in breathing caused by OSA can disturb sleep and cause fatigue into the next day.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Does your teen feel sleepy during the day but perk up with full attention when night falls? Warning signs of circadian rhythm disorders include:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep until the late evening or early morning hours
  • Difficult waking in the morning for school
  • Sleeping very late into the morning or afternoons on the weekends

Emotional Problems

Tackling life's challenges and meeting milestones can cause stress, confusion and mood swings in young adults. In some cases, these overwhelming emotions can result in major sleep issues or worse, depression and other serious mental illnesses can occur.

Other Medical Conditions

Specific medical conditions such as epilepsy, asthma and ADHD. Prescription medications as well as over the counter (OTC) drugs can have a serious effect on how your teen sleeps.

Drugs and Alcohol

Encourage your teen to avoid consuming illegal substances as well as alcohol. Both can have unpredictable effects on the quality and length of your teen's sleep.

Make Sleep a Priority in Your Teen's Life

Sometimes teens need help learning the time management skills that allow for a good night's sleep. Parents can help assess the activities that are competing for their time and manage or eliminate them completely.

Help your teen to avoid activities such as gaming, heavy studying or screen time late in the evening. Talk with your teen's health care provider to confront any sleep related medical problems like sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders or medical conditions.

Karen K. Meyer, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court (178 & Q)

Dr. Meyer answers your questions about child development and parenting. Dr. Meyer decided to become a doctor when she was in school and learned about the body's systems and the miracle of how they all work together. She likes talking to children and helping them feel better. Dr. Meyer believes that children are not little adults and they need to be treated in a way that will help them understand why they aren't feeling well and what they can do to get better. She also works to build tru ...

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