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What’s preventing adequate teen sleep

Filed in
  • School
  • Healthy sleep habits
  • Teens

By Gavi Forman  |  Jul 26, 2017
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Sleep is important for everyone – especially growing and developing teenagers. However, many teens struggle to get enough sleep, myself included. What is stopping teens from sleeping enough?

  1. Homework is possibly the biggest factor that keeps teens from getting enough sleep. Nightly math homework, reading assignments, projects, practice sets and general studying constantly detract from time in bed. I often felt almost irresponsible to go to bed rather than stay awake into the early hours of the morning to study for various tests even though I knew sleep was more beneficial. AP classes add to the stress and workload – cramming in content until the first couple of weeks in May. On top of all that, many high school students regularly study for standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT, whether that involves taking additional courses geared directly at a certain test or using review books independently. The sheer quantity of homework absorbs hours that should be dedicated to sleep.
  2. Sports and other extracurricular activities also take-up a lot of time. For example, the swimmers at my school often have to get up for morning practice before school and then additionally are required to attend practice in the afternoons. Even for other sports, practices and games consume many hours. Complete with transportation time and warm-ups, a single competition could easily take up an entire afternoon and evening. Clubs and extracurricular activities also delay bedtime as teens are pressured by peers and colleges to take part in many different activities.
  3. Phones, especially social media, often detract from teens’ sleep. It’s easy to waste precious hours on the never-ending supply of beautiful Instagram posts, Snapchats, intriguing Facebook videos, and the addicting void of Netflix. The photogenic lives of celebrities or late-night conversations can seem much more interesting than going to sleep even if one’s eyes are struggling to stay open. In fact, the blue light released from screens can delay the feeling of sleepiness – pushing bedtime later.
  4. Home problems and the stress that goes hand-in-hand with them frequently do not allow for consistently good sleep. Whether these involve sickness or death or financial problems, health can be seriously affected. Adolescence is already a difficult time, and when layered with the challenges of school and conflicts at home, it can be hard to stay both mentally and physically healthy – including getting enough sleep.
  5. Not prioritizing health is a major problem for teens. Although they might exercise and eat a healthy diet, there is zero to little education about the importance of sleep for short-term well-being and long-term health. Staying up late to earn good grades or to spend time with friends often seems to be more important than allowing the body to recover and grow by sleeping. Many teens do not know that sleep is much more beneficial than nearly anything else they could be doing.

Although these obstacles impede many teenagers’ abilities to get enough sleep, there are some possible solutions. It is valuable to have a more balanced schedule, which sometimes means taking easier classes or missing activities on a busy night. Simply being efficient by using class time effectively and removing phones while studying can also go a long way. Home difficulties and stresses are difficult to eliminate and take time to deal with, but asking for help and understanding from teachers and others can make a difference.

Sleep is worth these sacrifices. According to a 2016 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds of high schoolers in the U.S. do not sleep a sufficient amount on school nights. Well-rested teens are more likely to be healthier, more positive and more energetic by regularly sleeping eight to10 hours a night – the amount recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. During the school year, I aim to get at least eight hours of sleep every night. For me, this means going to bed by 11 p.m. Although sometimes I am simply unable to wrap up my night by then, prioritizing sleep and having a goal to strive for really helps me be more efficient.

Gavi Forman is a high school student in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To share your perspective on the importance of sleep for teens, contact us at


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  5. 5 Elizabeth 30 Jul
    This article really helped me because I've always wondered why most teenagers don't get enough sleep. I've always really have gotten enough sleep myself but my friends never really do. Now that I've read this article I can pass on my knowledge to them so they understand as well as I do. Thanks a lot!