When Teens Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Causes and Treatment for Tired Teenagers

Teenagers’ bodies are still in developmental stages and require more sleep than a grown adult—usually a little over 9 hours per night. We know that when the natural sleep cycle is disturbed symptoms related to insomnia occur in the short-term or the long-term depending upon the type of insomnia—temporary or chronic; and the pattern—sleep onset, middle, or terminal.

Distressed Teenage Girl Laying in Bed.

It may be funny to tell tales about teens missing sleep and generally commandeering their own sleep schedules, but real physical and psychological problems can be primary or secondary to sleep deprivation and insomnia in young adults.

Causes of Teen Insomnia

Insomnia symptoms may occur in teenagers in conjunction with any number of physical, psychological or environmental/behavioral causes, including:

  • Poor habits
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of guidance
  • Assertion of independence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Changes associated with moving or home life
  • Sleep disorders, including restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.

And remember, insomnia is a set of symptoms and usually not the root cause itself, but an indicator of something else going on in a teen’s life.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation in Teens

Insomnia signs and symptoms in teens are more common than you might think. But the disturbing part of insomnia is its recognized link to depression. The National Sleep Foundation polled teenagers on sleep and discovered that nearly half of those teens polled measured in ranges considered “depressive” and most reported that they experienced stress on a regular basis.*

Depression is a pernicious disease of epidemic proportions in America and can be a huge factor in insomnia.

Teen symptoms of insomnia and sleep deprivation:

  • Complain about inability to go to sleep, stay asleep or waking too early in the morning
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive
  • Severe moodiness
  • Feel constantly tired
  • Binge eating or loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Clumsiness
  • Tardiness or absenteeism at school and/or on a job

Treatment for Teens That Can’t Sleep

Before any doctor can treat insomnia he or she must diagnose it and at the same time determine a root or primary cause for the sleep problems. For teens common first line treatment is sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene includes setting regular bedtime hours, elimination of caffeine or sugar in drinks or food before bed, creating a relaxation or transition time between activity and bed, eliminating television, video games and computer use while getting ready for bed, regulating diet and exercise.

In many cases creating a regular bedtime schedule and other routines can quickly relieve insomnia symptoms. When problems are more deeply rooted you should see your doctor to discuss more aggressive therapies in concert with sleep hygiene. Left untreated or undiagnosed, teen insomnia can turn into chronic adult insomnia.


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