Teenage Sleep Disorder

Authored by Hugh Soames

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Michael Por

Contrary to popular belief, teenagers do not have it easy in this day and age. The average teenager goes through various changes that adults previously went through and, oftentimes, parents do not understand. One change that teenagers experience is an alteration of their biological sleep patterns which can throw off their innate sleep clock.

Research from the University of Munich1Winnebeck, Eva C. “Later School Start Times in a Flexible System Improve Teenage Sleep – PubMed.” PubMed, 15 June 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31840167. discovered that the lateness of a person’s sleep behavior reaches its peak at 20-years-old. From there, the lateness drops gradually and individuals return to going to bed at earlier times.

Unfortunately, late sleeping patterns have negative effects on a teenager’s health. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest issues teens face and it can cause several issues including anxiety and poor concentration. These result in poor performances in school or the workplace.

Teenagers and Sleep Facts

In recent years, more emphasis has been put on getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, sleep has been promoted as one of the big keys to good physical and mental health alongside eating healthy foods and exercising.

A study in the United States found that just 15% of teenagers get over eight hours of sleep during school nights and far less than eight hours on weekends. If teenagers are not getting eight to 10 hours of sleep per night then they are sleep deprived and constantly in a cycle of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is one of the key contributors to anxiety and stress in teenagers.

In Australia, one study found that a 27% increase in mental health issues in teenagers is attributed to sleep deprivation. In addition, it is believed that nearly three quarters of Aussie teenagers are persistently sleep deprived during the school week.

How Important is Sleep for Teenagers

Just like Australia, the US found some interesting impacts sleep deprivation has on teenagers’ mental health. In a poll2CDC. “Short Sleep Duration.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Sept. 2022, www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html., it was discovered that teens often display a number of symptoms when they lack sleep.

  • Sad and/or depressed
  • Lacked ambition and/or felt hopeless
  • Anxious/nervous/tense
  • Felt worried


A good night’s sleep enables individuals to cope with stress far better than when they are sleep deprived. Teenagers who experience poor sleeping patterns can parlay those same routines into adulthood and more serious issues can develop. Some of the issues adults may experience due to their sleep patterns as teens include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Narcolepsy


In addition, adults can gain weight or struggle to shed pounds due to sleep deprivation. Poor sleep can also trigger headaches and migraines in teenagers and adults, which can cause a lack of concentration in school or work.

Teenage Sleep Disorder

If you find your teenager to be irritable, then there is a good chance they are sleep deprived. Irritability is just one of the results of a sleep disorder. Drowsiness during the day is another effect of a sleep disorder in teenagers.

Both irritability and drowsiness can wreak havoc on a teenager’s school life. Personal relationships can be negatively harmed as well along with school work or employment. What are the common sleep disorders teenagers can experience?

  • Insomnia – Caused during periods of high-level stress and/or anxiety. Some triggers for stress and/or anxiety may be tests, sports events, bullying, and drug/alcohol abuse.
  • Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome – DSPS results when a teenager’s biological rhythm is out of balance.
  • Sleep Apnea – This occurs when teens stop breathing during sleep. Individuals may also experience loud snoring and sweat heavily in bed. Nights are disrupted due to the sleep routine.
  • Nightmares – Nightmares can occur to people of all ages and result from anxiety and/or stress. Other issues can trigger nightmares including drug/alcohol abuse and bullying.
  • Narcolepsy – Is a condition in which teenagers feel drowsy and can fall asleep at any moment regardless of what they are doing. The condition can strike when a teenager is at school in class or driving their car.
  • Somnambulism – Also known as sleepwalking, occurs when teenagers lack sleep. Teenagers will have little to no recollection of the experience once they wake up.


Sleep Disorder Effects in Teenagers

A sleep disorder can cause a number of effects in teenagers, but not all can occur in the same individual. Drowsiness is not the only issue teenagers will have and their entire lives can be affected by a sleep disorder. You may not realize it, but a sleep disorder in your teenager can have potentially deadly long term effects.

The effects of sleep disorders in teenagers may include:

  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Addiction to smartphones, TV, and/or tablet
  • Alcohol and/or drug use and dependency
  • Poor self-esteem and low opinion of self-worth
  • Depression, anxiety, potential for self-harm and/or suicide
  • Anger


What Stresses Cause a Teenage Sleep Disorder?

Parents can identify the stresses in their teenager’s life before it is too late. Although some parents may think their child is hiding the causes of their potential sleep disorder, most are plain to see.

Academic life can cause anxiety in teenagers especially with important exams and projects upcoming. Sports can also cause stress whether it be an upcoming big game, the pressure of performing, or trying to obtain a collegiate athletic scholarship. Friendship and relationships can cause sleep disorders and more teenagers are struggling due to the impact social media now has on their lives.

Both school and social media can see teenagers bullied by others. Persistent bullying can result in sleep deprivation. Students may turn to drugs and/or alcohol to cope with an assortment of issues. Substance abuse can also result in teenagers struggling to find a positive sleep routine.

Top 10 Causes of Teenage Sleep Disorder

  • Brain and nervous system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Chemical imbalance
  • Weak immune system
  • Pathological sleepiness, insomnia and accidents
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Emotional disorders, like depression and bipolar disorder
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Substance abuse
  • Environmental factors


Treating Teenage Sleep Disorder

Doctors can treat a sleep disorder in two ways depending on the issue. Medication and therapy are the two ways in which teenagers can be cured of their sleep disorder, but their doctor will determine the best route for recovery. No two teenagers are alike and doctors will look to find the underlying issues that caused the disorder in the first place. Whilst its medically proven that all teenagers require more sleep, parents are cautioned to watch out for more severe mood swings or behavior that could be an indicator of something more serious.

According to Heather Hagan, an expert clinician from Newport Academy teenage rehab, “Insomnia is usually brought on by stress. No one can argue that teenagers face a high amount of stress. Their busy schedule alone is enough of a burden to keep up with. Once you add in their social happenings, family problems and future concerns, you have a very anxious, very stressed out young adult.”

Some teenagers may require an intense therapeutic or medical sleep intervention, while others may be prescribed an alternative recovery therapy including exercise, mindfulness activities, meditation practice, and more non-medication healing methods.

Tips for Teenage Sleep Disorder

Parents should work with their teenagers to ensure they receive between eight and 10 hours of sleep per night. There are a few ways parents and teenagers can work together effectively to achieve the correct amount of sleep, including:

  • Setting a regular time to go to bed and wake-up
  • No tablets, smartphones, or TV two hours prior to bedtime
  • Eliminate nighttime caffeine and sugar
  • Complete activities to unwind the mind and body such as meditation and yoga
  • Write a sleep diary and review it regularly
  • Ensure your teenager’s bedroom is the perfect place to sleep by removing distracting items


Although many parents relax the bedtime and wake-up time rules in their homes, it is important to continue to enforce these rules. Sleep deprivation could be a major factor in your teenager’s life and make a negative impact on their future.


Previous: Childhood Emotional Neglect

Next: Teenage BPD

  • 1
    Winnebeck, Eva C. “Later School Start Times in a Flexible System Improve Teenage Sleep – PubMed.” PubMed, 15 June 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31840167.
  • 2
    CDC. “Short Sleep Duration.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 Sept. 2022, www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html.
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