How Much Sleep Do I Need?

Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Some teenagers get 6 or 7 hours, or less, during the school week, stay up late on weekends, and “catch up” by sleeping in late. Many teens say it’s hard to fall asleep at night, that they don’t feel tired until very late in the evening, but feel sluggish and sleepy in the morning at school.

Believe it or not, this is natural and happens for a reason! During your teen years, your body does a few things differently.

1. Melatonin (a hormone in your body that helps regulate sleep) is released later in the day
2. Your body is very sensitive to evening light and blue light (the kind of light from a tv, computer, or phone screen).

While it’s natural for your body to feel awake later in your teen years then when you were young, staying up late watching a TV show, playing computer or video games, or texting on a phone keeps your body and brain awake even longer.

So you got 4 or 5 hours of sleep Thursday because you crammed for a test, and then you slept 10 hours on Saturday – you caught up, right? Wrong! You’ve built up a sleep debt ¬– literally sleep your body owes itself – and this is next to impossible to make up. You’ve lost hours of sleep, but you’ve also lost REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. This part of sleeping restores your body and brain, and only happens in the early morning hours before you wake. When you only sleep 5 or 6 hours, your body never gets the opportunity for restorative REM sleep.

This lack of REM sleep makes you more than just sleepy the next day, too. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to have problems with:

– Daytime sleepiness or fatigue (like falling asleep in first period)
– Memory and academic performance
– Anxiety and sadness
– Decreased ability to recognize social cues with friends and family
– Decreased physical ability
– Weight gain
– Increased blood pressure

So what can you do to help yourself sleep better?

– Avoid caffeinated beverages, especially after noon
– Go to bed at the same time every day – even on weekends!
– Turn off and put away all electronics (phones included) at least an hour before bedtime
– Make your room sleep friendly – dark, quiet, and cool (68 degrees is the optimum temperature for your body to sleep)

If you have trouble falling asleep, try doing something relaxing – reading, or listening to quiet music, or even having warm tea or milk all help relax your brain.

Sometimes sleep problems are bigger than putting away screens and having healthy sleep habits. If your family tells you that you snore, if you feel the need to move a lot as your falling asleep at night, or if a family member has a history of a sleep disorder, it’s a good idea to come in for an appointment.

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