Updated: Sep 14
How much sleep do teenagers need? It will depend a little on the individual and their genetic makeup, but in general its reported that teenagers need between 9 to 10 hours sleep per day (Mindell JA & Owens JA, 2003), which is around 1 hour more than the recommended amount for adults. The sleep teenagers need is down to the stage of their development. Teenagers are developing physiologically at an enormous rate and will therefore need more sleep when compared to adults.
Professor Matt Walker, a sleep scientist from Berkeley University has found some staggering effects of not getting this recommended amount.
‘When we reduce our sleep, it causes a 70% reduction in cells involved with fighting disease, and speeds up our ageing by 10 years’ Professor Matt Walker
During the current pandemic these findings should focus the mind on making sure we know how much sleep teenagers need and focusing their minds on getting the optimal amount of sleep.
So when looking at the question of how much sleep do teenagers need, should we consider letting teenagers sleep more during lockdown?
When looking at the question of how much sleep do teenagers need in lockdown we thought it apt to review a sleep study from April this year by Cellini and colleagues in Italy while they were in lockdown. It has shown that length of sleep has not been affected but the quality of sleep has. Subjects noted that their quality of sleep had been negatively affected by lockdown and people suffering from mental health problems were affected more significantly. There are many hypotheses as to why quality of sleep may be being affected;1.High levels of stress and worry caused by the virus and the lockdown2People being less active both physically and mentally3.Change in bedtime and getting up times. 4.Alcohol and caffeine intake increasing as coping mechanisms for stress
To try and answer the question about how much sleep do teenagers need in lockdown and also find out what effects the quality of sleep, we spoke to sleep specialist Mandy Gurney from Millpond sleep clinic, who specialises in working with children with sleep difficulties. She gave us some great insights and some useful tips to help you get the right amount of sleep for your teenager and students;
Mandy’s 5 Top sleep tips – how much sleep do teenagers need in lockdown;
Teenagers tend to need more sleep so let them sleep! There is a natural change in teenagers development during adolescence that makes them want to go to bed later and sleep in – this is completely normal so if your teenager is sleeping in – let them – it’s what they need.
Get a consistent bedtime routine – Encourage your teenager to go to bed and wake up at the same time. Get light first thing in the morning and make your room dark and cool before bed. Your body clock is affected by natural light so it’s recommended you get out into the light as soon as you can after you wake up. The opposite is true for when you go to bed – you need to start dimming the lights well before bed and also make sure your room is cool as sleep onset is induced when your body temperature drops.
Stop using screens an hour before bed – Mandy commented that new research now says this isn’t necessarily due to the light from the screens but its more from what they are looking at which could be increasing stress hormones before bed. Stopping watching the news in lockdown before bed is one of Mandy’s top tips during the pandemic.
If you can’t sleep don’t stay in bed – One of the biggest mis conceptions about sleep is that you should stay in bed when awake at night. If you can’t get to sleep or wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep, its recommend that you get up out of bed and do something else. This could be simply getting a drink or writing your thoughts in a book. When you start feeling sleepy then take yourself back to bed.
Reduce caffeine after lunch time – caffeine can last 7 hours so make sure the last shot is before lunch. Many soft drinks have high doses so check the amount they drinking per day.
So the overwhelming advice when looking at how much sleep do teenagers need in lockdown is that these set of circumstances could be suiting teenagers sleep. It will give them the opportunity to relax into their natural sleep pattern for their developmental stage. Mandy did give us a word of warning however for when locks down eases. This is when she feels some sleep problems may occur for teenagers as their sleep routines will need to change back to fit back into school and college programmes.
If you feel your teenager is not getting the sleep they need and have a sleep problem we highly recommend you get in contact with Mandy at Millpond sleep clinic. Also listen to our podcast on sleep here.
Wrriten by Jon Ford
Edited By Alistair bailie