How Society Creates a Perfect Storm of Sleep Disturbances for Teens

Most teens don't sleep enough; here's how you can help.”


There is clear evidence that it is normal behavior for adolescents to stay up late and wake up later in the morning. This change in sleep happens due to a shift in their circadian rhythms (the biological process that regulates sleep) when they go through puberty. The problem is our society’s expectations set up the “perfect storm” of sleep disturbance for teens. Let me explain.


For starters, the blue light emitted from modern technology (phones, computers, tablets, and TVs) is proven to keep us awake. Studies have shown that adolescents are the most affected by blue light compared with people of different ages. Of course, what do you imagine a teenager doing if they are up late and can’t sleep? Most likely, teenagers will be up watching a movie, playing video games, or texting with friends.


Now that it is summer, most adolescents do not have to wake up for school, which allows them to get more sleep. So, staying up late watching a good movie is not too much of a concern, in theory. However, their overall sleep schedule and rhythm can be negatively impacted. When the fall comes around, increased academic and social pressures (i.e., school) not only require adolescents to get up earlier but also require them to use more technology.


In 2019, only 22 percent of U.S. high school students reported getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, a decrease from 31 percent in 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep is important, and sleep disturbances in adolescents are related to depression, emotional reactivity, obesity, and risk-taking behaviors.


Sleep promotes learning and memory; not getting enough sleep makes it more difficult to concentrate in school and to learn.


Here’s how we can help:

A systematic review of 103 studies found there are three main actions parents can take:

· Set some bedtime rules, such as turning off devices by a specific time or getting ready for bed by a certain time.

· Practice healthy sleep habits yourself, such as avoiding screens an hour before bed and going to bed consistently every night.

· Cultivate a warm, caring relationship with your teen and encourage them to participate in productive and engaging activities.


Due to biological changes and social pressures, most teens do not get enough sleep, which is a problem that can negatively impact their mental and physical health. There are steps to take to create better sleeping habits to help adolescents overcome societal pressure and rest better.


Written by Kaitlyn Harrison, M.S.

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