Sleep in Adolescents, does it impact mental health?

Sleep in Adolescents, does it impact mental health?

Sleep is a universal biological characteristic that impacts all species and if it is neglected, one that refuses to be ignored. The precise functionality of sleep is still a mystery on many levels however, data shows it is critical to cognitive, somatic, and psychological processes (Brand & Kirov, 2011). Even flies and rodents are found to die quicker if exposed to lack of sleep (Brand & Kirov, 2011). With this week being Sleep Awareness Week, discussing the importance of sleep in adolescents is worth a discussion. This blog will cover the relationship between sleep and teens, the consequences of lack of sleep, and how to promote positive sleep with your adolescent.

Relationship Between Sleep and Teens

Owens (2014) reports insufficient sleep in adolescents is a public health issue and pediatric offices encounter it on a regular basis. According to Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute a research study carried out at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm revealed that depression and suicidal thoughts were just as common in teens with poor sleep habits as teens experimenting with risky behavior (2017). Georgetown also reported on a study the University of Texas Health Science Centre did and where they found that teens experiencing sleep deprivation were four times more likely to be depressed than those that had healthy sleeping habits (2017). It is well established that lack of sleep impacts positive mental health and should not be ignored.

Consequences of Lack of Sleep in Teens

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute symptoms of sleep deprivation in teens

  • Tired facial expressions including bags under the eyes
  • Trouble waking in the morning
  • Bad skin- yes pimples could be from lack of sleep
  • Frequent sicknesses
  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Attention span concerns and forgetfulness
  • Need to take naps after school or in the evenings
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • When you are sleep deprived and operate a vehicle you are as impaired as driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08%, which is the illegal limit. Drowsy driving causes over 100,000 car crashes each year (


Promoting Positive Sleep in Teens

The Sleep Foundation recommends promoting positive sleep in teens with these suggestions:

  • Make sleep a priority – consider keeping a sleep diary to see if you are getting required sleep- for teens it is recommended minimum of 8-10 hours of sleep per night
  • Naps can be helpful if planned correctly. A nap too long or too close to bedtime, can interfere with regular sleep cycle.
  • Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible- keep it cool, quiet, and dark
  • Eliminate or reduce caffeine intake
  • Establish a consistent bed and wake time- and try to stick with this routine on the weekends and holidays
  • Make a to-do-list to reduce worrying at bedtime
  • Relaxing activities before bed such as hot showers or reading- Eliminate TV, social media, and video games an hour or so before bedtime.
  • Understand that the teens sleep cycle is in conflict with school start and stop times. Sleep cycles in adolescents is transitioning to fall asleep and wake up later- thus school schedules must be considered


Sleep is a universal physical need that must be taken seriously. There are no replacements or substitutes for sleep. As parents, be aware of the importance of sleep in adolescents, the consequences of sleep deprivation, and promote positive sleep patterns in teens. If your child struggles with anxiety and/or depression or is feeling overwhelmed with life seek counseling. Debra Martin ([email protected]) and Jessica Wineburger ([email protected]) see clients daily with these presenting concerns.

~Debra Martin



Brand, S., & Kirov, R. (2011). Sleep and its importance in adolescence and in common adolescent somatic and psychiatric conditions. International Journal of General Medicine, 4, 425-442.

Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute. (2017, December 1). The Impact of Sleep on Teen Mental Health. Retrieved March 11, 2020, from http://

Owens, J., Adolescent Sleep Working Group, & Committee on Adolescence. (2014). Insufficient sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults: An Update on Causes and Consequences. Pediatrics, 134(e921), . doi:10.1542/peds.2014-1696 (2020). Teens and Sleep. Retrieved March 11, 2020, from http://


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