Why do teenagers need so much sleep and how you can help

Sleeping soundly is vital to both our physical and mental wellbeing at any age, but throughout the developmental stages in our lives it is particularly important our sleep is of high quality. Young adults are more tired than most, with many studies suggesting teens require some 8-10 hours a night for optimal functioning and healthy longer-term development. How many of us can say our kids are making the most of their hours of shut-eye?

As a parent, no amount of “no screens before bed” or “don’t sleep in till 12 on a weekend” rules may seem to help your teenager get the quality sleep they require. At Kally Sleep we understand it can be hard to change habits like this, especially if you’re not sure why they can’t sleep. We have compiled some of the key reasons for teen tiredness.

Their Sleep/Wake Cycle is Different

It’s common for parents to brush off (another!?) lie-in as stereotypical lazy-teenager behaviour. However, there is often more to the story, and biology might be to blame for this reluctance to rise with the rest of the household.

Your circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle, causes what is known as your chronotype. This is a genetically informed behavioural manifestation of the natural timelines your body clocks work to. In short, your chronotype dictates when you feel sleepy. This can change throughout our lives, but a teenager’s cycle tends to be further ahead than adults and children.

Young adults have a propensity to wake later as their bodies release sleep-inducing melatonin at around 11pm, much later than the 9pm release of most developed adults. This can make mornings challenging for teenagers. Many UK and US schools have trialed a later start to the school day have generally had great results, with improved grades and moods of students.

Society tends to hold early birds in high regard whilst night-owls are seen as lazy. It is important to understand that this is not so black and white. Understanding this and helping with your teenagers sleep to schedule around their natural sleep rhythm is a step in the right direction.

Sleep is essential for mental and physical development

Running for the bus, lugging laptops and books, standing for long hours throughout the Saturday job and football matches in the afternoon… Our kids do it all, but do they have the opportunity to recover their developing muscles and joints throughout these important teenage years?

Sleep plays a huge part in this recovery, from healing injuries to dealing with day to day wear and tear. You are sleeping in an unhealthy position, this recovery will be limited which can have a particularly negative affect on teens who are still growing. The effort teens bodies and brains are going to overnight makes good sleep even more necessary.

During the incredibly formative teenage years, mental development is just as constant and changing as physical. Sleep is proven to be essential to learning, memory and general brain function. With so many young people scrimping on the hours of shut-eye they get each night, problems can arise for the processes that rely on sleep. Teens who get more sleep more are reported to achieve higher, be more focused and less prone to physical injury.

Flying the nest? Many young adults get worse sleep in rented accommodation.

Young people in the UK make up the majority of the renting population, with many going into student halls or their first rented home as they find work. Whilst parents do all they can to pack their kids off with all the home comforts (care packages, fairy lights… we’ve all been there!) no room competes with “home”.

Beds in student halls are notoriously uncomfortable, and renters make up a high proportion of those reporting to not sleep well. Good bedding, a comforting blanket and a great pillow are essentials not to scrimp on when flying the nest, to make the best of a potentially uncomfortable bed.

Stress and anxiety can keep teens up at night

Studies have suggested teenagers require some 8-10 hours’ sleep a night to function at their best, so why is it that 85% are reporting under 8.25 hours on school nights? Stress, anxiety and hormonal issues can hit the hardest throughout these years which often lead to struggles falling and staying asleep.

Unfortunately, studies show that anxiety causes sleeping problems just as sleeping problems often lead to anxiety. If you feel your teen is slipping into this cycle and displaying signs such as irritability and a struggle to control emotions, it is important to offer help early. Big changes are a key cause for stress in young adults, so if big exams, major life decisions, job applications or even a house move is on the horizon, be prepared to offer support.

Though we may not be able to solve these complex issues with the click of a finger, providing teenagers with the right sleep tools can make a huge difference to the soundness of their sleep.

How can you help?


  • Help your teenager to keep a to-do list which they stick to. Getting behind on studies and tasks can cause sleepless nights which can make it harder to focus the next day. Quickly enough, your teen falls into a vicious cycle of being too tired to focus, causing sleep-limiting stress which further detriments focus the next day.


  • Encourage healthy habits. If your teen isn’t particularly active, it might be that they don’t enjoy the sports and clubs their school offers. Spend time working out the right activity for them and they will benefit by being tired sooner and sleeping better.


  • Keep their bedroom a sleep and relaxation zone. Allowing your teenager to study in their room will not be conductive of good sleep as the space will be associated with wakeful activities.


  • If you are replacing old mattresses and pillows, give them a say. Your teenager knows best what is comfortable to them.


  • If your teenager is displaying signs of sleep-impacting disorders, talk to them and be a support system. Depression and anxiety are all too common in young adults and suffering alone can make bedtime a battle. We recommend seeking professional help if you are worried.


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