The Forum

Sleep and Teens’ Mental Health

By Shontreace Morgan 

November 17, 2023

A woman sleeping in bed. Copyright free image courtesy of Unsplash.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teenagers are more likely to spend less than eight hours sleeping per night. Teenagers between the ages of 13- and 18-years old need between 8-10 hours of sleep every night. But according to the CDC more than 70% of American teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep. 

Journalist William Brangham interviewed High School Student Gabby Wong who is a junior at Mark Keppel High in California. Wong claims she has suffered with mental health issues since she was 11. “Every night before I go to sleep, I just stare at the ceiling and think, what have I not done? What assignment have I not finished?” Gabby is relating to other teens who are also struggling to juggle all their extracurricular activities with school.

Neuroscientist Adriana Galvan and developmental psychologist Andrew Fuligni are studying links between sleep and teenage mental health at the UCLA’s Center for the Developing Adolescent. They have found that students who perform academically well sleep less and more likely to have mental health issues. Galvan states, “We’re in a society where Americans do not prioritize sleep.” The United States is one of few countries where people lose sleep trying to get more things accomplished. Students see their parents doing this and they copy off them. 

Sleep is important to a person’s health. Daily sleep allows the brain to rest and recharge. Not getting enough sleep can lead to issues concentrating and low performance in school. Teenagers not getting enough sleep can lead to higher risk of attention and behavior problems, obesity, and mental health challenges. Not only that, but it can cause them to be grumpier at others and themselves. Performing basic tasks can feel like a chore. Here are some tips to build healthy sleep habits: 

No electronics before bed: Social media, videos, and games can make it difficult for you to go to sleep. Practice turning off your electronics at least an hour before bed so you can focus on going to sleep.

Don’t get in the habit of sleeping with the lights on. Turn off the lights and make sure your room is quiet, comfortable, and relaxing. By practicing this, your body can get used to a quiet environment where it can rest. 

Naps make it harder to fall asleep when you’re supposed to go to bed at night time. Not taking naps can make it easier to fall asleep during bedtime. 

Getting exercise throughout the day can cause you to be more tired when it’s bed time. Practice walking more through the day. 

Turn out the lights and go to bed at a set time. Set an alarm and practice getting up when it goes off. Train your brain to want and expect sleep. Then it can become more natural. 

It is important for teens to get up to eight hours or more of sleep because it helps their growth and it allows their brain to rest and recharge. Lack of sleep can cause lack of performance in school. It can also cause lack of attention and mental health problems.