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Clinician’s Corner: Teen Sleep

The numbers and percentages are staggering. 85% of teens get less than the minimum requirement of 8 ½ hours of sleep.  We all are aware that shortened sleep impairs learning, performance, health and safety.  Nearly 55% of fall-asleep crashes involve drivers 25 years of age or younger. It is no surprise that almost ¼ of young adults report driving faster when drowsy.

Why we need consistent sleep:

  • Sleep plays a vital role as adolescents develop and go through the maturation process. Adolescence is a time of increased responsibility, peer pressure and busy schedules.
  • Sleep is food for the brain – produces alertness, enhances memory and our ability to learn
  • A biological requirement – helps perform effectively and safely
  • Essential for development – particularly during growth and maturation
  • A key to our health – as important as good nutrition and regular exercise

Sleep is a basic human drive regulated by two biological systems:

  • Sleep/Wake Homeostasis: The drive to sleep that increases the longer we are awake
  • Circadian Rhythms: The internal clock in our brain that regulates when we feel sleepy and when we are alert

Sleep is regulated by a biological clock in the brain. The internal mechanism that regulates when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert resides in the brain and is affected by light and dark.

  • Melatonin: causes you to fall asleep
  • Orexin: is a hormone that keeps a person awake.
  • “Non-24”:when an individual’s biological clock fails to synchronize to a normal 24-hour day.


  • Teens need 8 ½ –9 ½ hours of sleep, and 85% get less than the minimum requirement.
  • Teens often have poor sleep habits and irregular sleep patterns – trying to make up for sleep on weekends.
  • Teens regularly experience daytime sleepiness.
  • The biological clocks of children shift during adolescence, which drives them to a later bedtime schedule (around 11:00 pm) and a natural tendency to wake later in the morning.
  • This delayed phase syndrome can place them in conflict with their schedules – particularly early school start times.



  • Cognitive, social, and behavioral performance become impaired.
  • Poor school performance and lower grades
  • Tardiness and absence from school
  • Difficulty remaining alert and paying attention
  • Reduced ability to concentrate, problem-solve, remember, and have a positive attitude


  • Irritability and impaired moods
  • Problems controlling emotions and getting along with others
  • Greater risk for hyperactivity, depression and possibly violence and substance abuse
  • At risk for injuries and drowsy driving accidents
  • Overall, daytime sleepiness reduces enjoyment and quality of life.


Adolescents have cell phones iPads, gaming devices, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the countless electronic distractions that can make it difficult for them to fall asleep.  The gray screens really do impact sleep induction so phones and tablets can mess up a good bedtime routine.

Worse that those devices are the gaming devices that many are addicted to.  Many teens stay up until 3:00am and some as late as 5:00am playing games on their devices.  All of this can disrupt their productivity.  With the COVID-19 outbreak, school is now virtual, and students are on their devices more than ever… even for legitimate reasons!

Feel free to ask your Thompson Pharmacist about any meds your teen takes and how it can impact their sleep. Go Ahead and ASK… at Thompson Pharmacy it’s ALL for YOU!