Why is proper sleep necessary for teenagers?

Proper sleep for teenagers is essential for sustaining their physical health and mental development. Adequate sleep benefits brain development and function during adolescence, increases the attention span, and improves overall cognitive abilities.

Every human needs quality sleep to fuel their body for optimum functioning, and teenagers are no exception. Proper sleep for teenagers is even more crucial as their physical bodies and mental growth are in their formative years. Proper sleeping hours for teenagers is extremely essential as sleep deprivation or insomnia in teens can affect their psychological, physical, hormonal, and emotional growth.

Proper sleep for teenagers is also necessary for the proper development of their brains and cognitive functions, as well as to make their immune systems stronger. Even so, sleep for teenagers can prove to be quite evasive given their erratic lifestyle, putting at risk their academic and athletic performance, attention span, and even their mental state and behaviour.

Factors that Affect Your Sleep Cycle

Multiple factors contribute to the lack of sleep among teenagers, also known as insomnia in teens, and they can vary from person to person.

1. Irregular sleeping schedule

Setting a proper schedule can be difficult for teens considering their slow sleep drive and low production of melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone. Further, sleep for teenagers is hard to come by mostly because of their habit of staying up till late at night tinkering with one thing or the other. They fail to realise the ill effects of sleeping late on their circadian rhythm and sleep-wake cycle.

As it is, most schools and colleges start early in the morning. Even if teens go to bed past 1 a.m., they have no choice but to get up at 7 or 8 am. This leaves minimal sleep time for teenagers to relax, unwind, and refill their energy tanks. In their bid to catch up, many try to fulfil their sleeping requirements during weekends, which further aggravates the inconsistency in sleep time at night and delays schedules.

2. Having too much on the plate

You may have heard teens complaining about having their hands full. They have so much to take care of, from homework, project work, and work obligations to spending time with friends, partying, playing sports, and doing household chores. With so much to do, what gets ignored is a healthy sleep routine. Sometimes it’s the assignments, at other times it’s socialising, movies, or me-time that keep them awake late at night, disrupting the relationship between teenagers and sleep.

3. Electronic devices

Imagining life without mobile phones and tablets is hard these days, but is it necessary to fiddle with these electronic devices late at night? Two national surveys found that almost half of US teens remained sleep deprived in 2015 from excessive use of smartphones. Another 2019 survey revealed that 68% of teenagers keep their phones within reach at night. Constantly using these devices keeps their brains hooked on the content, and notifications disrupt their sleep on numerous intervals. Also, the blue light emitted by these devices reduces the body’s ability to produce melatonin, affecting the sleep cycle of teenagers.

4. Disorders and mental problems

Disorders in sleep for teenagers include Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome, daytime drowsiness and neurodevelopmental disorders such as Attention-deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder. These conditions can make sleeping at night a challenge. Insomnia in teens may also stem from mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, thereby obstructing their sleeping patterns.

How Right Food Can Benefit Your Sleep Pattern

A link has been found between sleep deprivation and elevated BMI and other critical health conditions in teens; their food choices are among the most significant contributors to this. Studies have also found that teens who tend to exhibit sleepiness during the day have unhealthy eating habits. All these studies point out the necessity of eating nutritious meals, as what you eat during the day immensely affects sleep quality. A study by NLM has proved this by revealing a connection between low fibre, high sugar, and high saturated fat intake and less restorative sleep.

  • Fibre-rich food
    A study reveals that a fibre-rich diet may help people sleep better and impart many other health benefits. Such a diet may also be particularly helpful to effectively address insomnia in teens. Examples of fibre-rich foods that can contribute to the sleeping hours for teenagers include finger millet (Ragi), black beans, potatoes, bitter gourd, eggplant, dal, apples, bananas, pears, and almonds.
  • Leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruits
    Leafy vegetables, nuts, and whole grains are good sources of magnesium. These foods help relax the muscles and improve sleep quality. Like magnesium, potassium is also associated with improved sleeping patterns, and foods rich in potassium such as bananas, apricots, and potatoes can contribute to a better sleep time for teenagers.
  • Water
    You can sleep better if you remain hydrated all day. As your body longs for water, you may experience hoarseness of breath and leg cramps while sleeping, which are indicative of dehydration.
  • Almonds
    Almonds may improve your sleep quality as they are a great source of melatonin and magnesium, which may also help promote sleep by reducing inflammation. A handful of these nuts before bed can help you effortlessly slip into sleep.
  • Chamomile tea
    Chamomile tea may help improve sleep quality thanks to the flavonoids present in chamomile. A 2011 study found that having chamomile tea twice a day helped the participants fall asleep faster and have a sound sleep.

A diet dense in nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and iron may help improve your overall body functioning and sleep quality. Broccoli and leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamin B; red meat, liver, oily fish, and egg yolk are repositories of vitamin D; while soybean oil, almonds, and peanuts are rich sources of vitamin E.

Recommended sleep for a teenager

An 8 to 10-hour period is the daily recommended sleep for teenagers to ensure their bodily functions are proper. Healthy sleep hours for teenagers are a must as they are in their formative years, and quality sleep helps improve their overall development, including their ability to make wise decisions.

The following tips can further help teens sleep better:

  • Set a wake-up and bedtime every day: Even if teens find it hard to sleep and wake up at a set time during weekdays, they should make an effort to follow the schedule.
  • They should refrain from trying to compensate for lost sleep during weekends as it will disrupt the cycle.
  • Bedtime routine: Teenagers can follow some routines that can help them sleep better, including taking a warm shower, drinking a glass of hot milk, doing yoga, etc.
  • Check consumption of stimulants after sunset: Having stimulants such as tea, coffee, energy drinks, and soft drinks after sunset can keep your body clock functioning long after you cross bedtime.
  • Reading from the pages of a conventional book/magazine with interesting storylines can also significantly contribute to better sleep.


The importance of sleep for teens is no trivial matter. Achieving a proper sleep cycle isn’t a herculean task, but a habit similar to any other habit teens quickly pick up. A few alterations in lifestyle and food habits can help achieve this. Therefore, teenagers must not develop cold feet towards introducing positive changes into their lives, as maintaining both sleep quality and quantity is essential for their proper growth. As discussed in this article, the long-term benefits of proper sleep for teenagers are numerous; from their physical to emotional development, sleep has an all-round impact.

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