Why Does My Teen Have Trouble Sleeping?

Research shows that teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep a night, which most teens do not reach nightly. During adolescence, the body’s circadian rhythm (like an internal biological clock) is reset, telling teenagers to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. This change in the circadian rhythm happens because a teen’s brain makes the hormone melatonin later at night than the brains of kids and adults do. However, your teen may also be suffering from insomnia, which is most commonly caused by stress. While everyone has trouble falling asleep from time to time, if your teen regularly cannot fall asleep and stay asleep, they may have chronic insomnia.

Common causes of chronic insomnia could be other medical conditions, mental-health problems, side effects of medicines, or even substance abuse. If you think your teen may be suffering from chronic insomnia, you can get help from a doctor, counselor, or therapist. However, before seeking professional help, you could attempt reducing the stress your teen feels and make sure they have a comfortable sleeping environment, as these are the usual causes of insomnia.

Sleep Problems

After a long night with little sleep from caring for my sick 8 year old, I again realize the importance of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is important for both children and parents. With inadequate sleep, children can be moody, fatigued, have inattention, poor school performance, increased daytime sleepiness, or even depression.

In current society, our kids have high homework loads, extensive after school activities and parents with increased work demands. These demands are causing our kids to get to bed later and are adversely affecting our kids. In addition, when our kids get to bed later, so do we.

Sleep requirements vary for different kids but typical requirements are:

  • 11-13 hours a day for toddlers
  • 10-11 hours a night for school age children
  • 9-9.5 hours a night for teenagers

There are ways we can help to facilitate a good night’s sleep. It is important to establish a relaxing bedtime routine and a regular bedtime. Children should sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room. The room should have no distractions or activities. That means no TV, computer, video games, or cell phone. Children should have regular afternoon physical activity but not right before bed. They should have no caffeine after lunch. They should also turn off all video stimulation at 7 o’clock to allow their brain to rest before bed. Teenagers should not have cell phones in their room so they cannot be woken by texts or calls.

If your child takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep or has trouble staying asleep talk to your child’s pediatrician. Also, if you have noticed loud snoring or trouble breathing at night, they could have a medical problem affecting their sleep so call our office so we can evaluate the sleep problem further.

Elizabeth Chea, MD