Today's Tired Teens

If your teen tunes out and seems to be sleepwalking, there may be a good reason for it: Teens today are not getting enough sleep.

A recent National Sleep Foundation survey on Sleep in America found that 60% of children under 18 report being constantly tired and 15% say they had fallen asleep in class.

This constant fatigue can affect a teens mental state and behavior, according to an article from the Loyola University Medical Center Injury Prevention Program. The article referred to the NSF study and stated: “Lack of adequate sleep slows reaction time, causes lapses in attention and exacerbates emotional and behavioral problems.”

Today’s teens are a sleep-deprived generation that drinks more caffeine, gets up earlier for school and goes to bed later. They are required to stay awake in order to accomplish everything in their busy lives.

1.   Busy Lives, Restless Nights:
Experts agree that teens, like anyone else, have a natural circadian rhythm, or body clock, that gets thrown off when the alarm awakens them at 6 a.m. to attend a 7:30 class. But instead of resting after eight hours of school, they rush off to sports practice, part-time jobs, or school activities. They consume caffeinated and sugar-filled beverages and foods in order to have energy. They hang out with their friends and at some point, they do three to four hours worth of homework. Even if they make it to bed by 10 p.m. and don’t’ stay awake staring at the computer or the television, they have difficulty falling asleep.


Mary Carskadon, Ph.D., is the NSF Pediatric Council Chair and the director of the Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory at Brown University. Carskadon surveyed 3,000 teens in 1999. Among the results:

  • 59% of teens reported that they held part-time jobs.
  • 20% spent at least 20 hours a week on extracurricular activities.
  • 65% of girls and 38% of boys reported rising before 6 a.m. on school days.

Carskadon and other experts say that these results indicate abnormal sleeping patterns. Teens need at least nine hours of sleep, thanks to changes in their bodies brought on by puberty. Around 11 p.m., teens are naturally ready for bed. Unfortunately, six hours later, the alarm goes off. Then parents wonder why their teens don’t naturally roll out of bed.

2.   “Just Five More Minutes Mom”:
It’s a familiar scene: Mom opens the door for the third time and yells, “You’re going to be late for school!” The teenager, exhausted doesn’t respond and the parent becomes frustrated. The teenage years are, after all, supposed to be the time when you have the most energy. Many parents dismiss the often heard,“Just five more minutes, Mom,” as laziness. This is mainly because they don’t understand the effect that “late to bed, early to rise” has on their teenagers.