How much sleep do teenagers need?

Sleep is another essential component of day to day living, and it’s a behaviour that changes throughout childhood.

So how much sleep do teenagers need, and how do sleeping patterns work? About eight to ten hours sleep is about right for most teenagers.

The amount of sleep we want and need is influenced by an internal biological ‘clock’ known as a ‘circadian rhythm’.

- For most, this internal clock works on a roughly, 24-hour cycle and tends to be synchronised with the pattern of day and night. 
- The circadian clock affects the time of day at which we feel tired and ready to sleep, how long we sleep, and when we would naturally wake up. 
- There is individual variation; some of us prefer to stay awake later and sleep longer in the morning (owls) whilst others prefer an early night and an early start (larks).

During adolescence the circadian rhythm changes quite dramatically.

  • Most teenagers have a shift in the time at which they feel sleepy. Their natural rhythm is to go to sleep late and wake up late. Most teenagers are owls rather than larks.
  • However, this does not match well with the usual school timetable.
  • As a result, during school and working weeks most teenagers do not get enough sleep.

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This article is from the free online course:

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

University of Reading