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Teenagers and sleep

Right now, the impact of lockdown might mean it’s harder to get as much sleep as you need. Routines may have slipped, there may be more screen time than usual, and we may be feeling anxious. Here’s a reminder of why it’s so important to get some restful sleep. 

Why do we need sleep?  

We need sleep for our wellbeing. It’s food for our brain!

Lack of sleep can made you look bad, feel moody and can affect how you perform during the day.

Sleep is important for our mental and physical development whatever our age.

Sleep is essential for processing, restoring and strengthening our bodies. Here are some of the things it does:

  • It repairs wounds and helps you recover from illness quicker
  • It helps you grow
  • Hormones are released so nails, hair and bones can grow.
  • It’s good for your skin
  • It helps your brain process everything you’ve learned during the day
  • It helps you learn and understand information more effectively
  • It helps with your memory and concentration

If you don’t have enough sleep, you’re also more likely to have an accident or injury.  

How much sleep?

Different aged people need different amounts of sleep each night:

  • 3-6 year olds need 10-12 hours
  • 7-12 year olds need 10-11hours
  • 12-18 year olds need 8-9 hours
  • Adults need around 7-9 hours 

Teenagers and sleep

Research suggests that teenagers have a delayed release of melatonin – the sleepy hormone – which means they become sleepy later at night and they’re more likely to stay asleep in the morning.

Melatonin occurs naturally in our bodies when it gets dark outside, to help us sleep. This is why being in a dark environment – diming lights and closing the curtains – can help with our sleep. Melatonin production can also be affected by screen time and playing on your computer, so it’s best to avoid these activities before bedtime.

A consistent sleep schedule is really important. It’s easier to fall asleep at bedtime when you have a regular sleep/wake pattern. 

Creating a healthy routine

The best sleeping habits are consistent with a healthy routine and it’s never too late to start!!


  • Reduce your intake of caffeine (in the evening in particular). This includes tea, coffee, energy drinks, and even eating chocolate.
  • Stay active, get moving during the day as it will help to make you sleepier in the evening.
  • Try to keep your bedroom/bed associated with sleep and not being awake and active. Try to avoid doing schoolwork, gaming and everyday activities on your bed.   
  • Reduce the use of electronics in the evening – this includes tv, tablets, gaming devices and mobile phones. Think about what is manageable and realistic (30-45mins before bed) A digital curfew for all the family can be helpful so that everyone is following the same rules, or negotiate a time to turn off devices.
  • Stick to quiet, calm activities before bedtime for example jigsaws, colouring in or reading.


  • Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable, change the bed linen regularly and have suitable covers for the summer and winter months.
  • Keep the bedroom cool, dark and quiet if you can.
  • Make sure the bedroom is well aired.
  • The bedroom temperature should be around 16-20°C.
  • Black out blinds can be helpful- particularly in the summer months.
  • Cover toys or objects if they’re causing a distraction at night.


  • Keep to a regular bedtime and wake time- this helps with getting our body into a rhythm.
  • Do the same things every night before sleep, it helps to teach the body the signals for bed. Have a bath/wash, brush teeth, put comfortable clean pyjamas on.
  • Try and detach from the day- it may be helpful to keep a diary of what you have achieved in the day and what you want to achieve for tomorrow. This can help clear your mind and put the day to rest. It can give a sense of control and create less time for staying awake worrying or stressing.
  • And go to bed if you’re feeling sleepy – the brain needs to associate bed with sleepiness.

On our next blog we will cover what to do when our children and teenagers can’t fall asleep straight away. In the meantime, some really useful websites to check out on sleep are Millpond Children's Sleep Clinic and The Sleep Council 

Sleep well!

About the author

Jenny Ajnesjo is a Student Specialist Practitioner School Nurse