Alaska Sleep Education Center

Sleep-Deprived Generation: Why Teens Need Sleep to Succeed

Posted by Maria Norris on May 11, 2021 7:27:36 AM

Portrait of dreamy smiling young woman using laptop while lying on floor at home

Sleep is directly linked to success. It allows our bodies to recover and supports optimal emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being. Healthy sleep habits are crucial for the daily functioning and performance of adolescents. Yet, a lot of teens ignore the importance of sleep and tend to stay up late.

Sleep Deprivation as an Epidemic Among Teens

Teenagers spend roughly 7 hours at school. They have 30 to 60 minutes of homework per subject every day. Add to this extracurriculars, friends, hobbies, and social media. How much time is left for sleep? When exams and essay due dates are approaching, teens have even less time to recharge at night.

This is a schedule of an average teen today. According to statistics reported by CDC, teens (13 to 18 years) need at least 8 to 10 hours of night’s rest. Yet, 72.7% of high school students do not get enough sleep. They suffer from fatigue and mood changes. If sleep deprivation persists, teens might have trouble concentrating and remembering. They become more irritable and prone to rapid mood changes. Prolonged sleep deprivation can cause even more severe health problems like diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, and hypertension.

To establish a healthy sleep schedule, we need to consider factors that cause sleep deprivation in adolescents in the first place. So what makes teens stay awake at night?

1)   Homework

Homework overload has been an issue for years. Students have too much on their plate. They have to pull regular all-nighters to finish papers and prepare for tests. Even though school is important, sacrificing health is not the best option. Luckily, today students can delegate some of their tasks and write an essay online. It allows maintaining progress in school without the risk of developing health problems because of sleep deprivation.

2)   Hormonal Changes

Naturally, teenagers go through significant transformations. Due to hormonal changes in their bodies, they might stay awake longer and fall asleep after midnight. Such distortions of the sleep cycle result from the shifts in melatonin production. Teens who experience this problem need changes in their schedule and environment to maintain healthy sleep habits.

3)   Social Media

Social media is a huge part of students’ life. They can scroll through their feeds for hours because it is exciting and entertaining. Although this is a distraction in itself because of overstimulation, using technology before bed is also harmful because of the blue light that comes from screens. It suppresses the secretion of melatonin, pushing one’s bedtime further and further. Teens find it more difficult or even impossible to fall asleep in time. Yet, this factor is also manageable. Blue-blocking glasses and screen light filters can help to eliminate the impact of blue light on circadian rhythm.

4)   Unrealistic Schedule

An irregular sleep schedule is often a result of poor planning. Teenagers take on more activities than they can handle. They feel pressured to do more to get into college or land a job. With time, classes, extracurricular activities, internships, and other types of work pile up, making teens overwhelmed. They lack time to get a proper night’s rest to reduce stress and tension.

How a Healthy Sleep Schedule Helps to Succeed

A healthy night’s sleep gives us resources to cope with our daily tasks. It is especially relevant for teenagers who are still growing and developing. Teens who have at least eight hours of sleep each day are more likely to succeed. Here is why.


Sleep is linked to one’s performance in school. An MIT study has shown that grades of students with an average sleep time of about seven and a half hours were up 50 percent compared to students who slept an hour less. Thus, students can significantly increase their academic performance if they control the quality and duration of their night’s sleep.

Note that the consistency of sleep matters most. A researcher from the Department of Neurology at the University of Michigan, Shelley Hershner, has found that students with regular sleep patterns tend to have higher GPAs than those who go to bed at different times every day. Students with sleep disorders also drop classes more frequently. In contrast, quality and consistent sleep contributes to better academic performance.


Sleep and memory are connected. Before something becomes a memory, we need three mechanisms, namely acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Acquisition and recall happen when we are awake, but memories become stable mostly when we sleep. Without it, we cannot access the information no matter how well it was introduced.

When we sleep, our brain continues to process information we get during the day. This is what we need for memory consolidation, i.e., preserving the most important information and getting rid of excessive bits. Having the recommended amount of sleep at night increases the ability to learn and remember new information. When students ignore it, they have difficulty focusing and recalling what they have learned.

Physical Health

One cannot underestimate the role of healthy sleep for physical well-being. How a person feels during the day depends on the sleep cycle. Sleep is a time when our blood vessels and heart heal. This eliminates the risk of developing heart diseases and prevents high blood pressure.

Sleep is also linked to hormonal balance. Our bodies regulate the level of ghrelin and leptin, preventing us from overeating and becoming obese. Sleep also influences insulin management. It keeps glucose levels stable, decreasing the risk of developing diabetes. Besides, sleep supports the immune system and ensures growth and development, which helps adolescents to stay healthy.

Prioritizing Sleep

Sleep is a vital part of life. It goes hand in hand with success as it gives us physical and mental resources to grow and perform better. Regular and consistent sleep is the foundation of successful daytime performance. Therefore, teachers, parents, and teens themselves need to rethink the attitude to sleep and find ways to maintain healthy sleep habits.

Teens are biologically disposed to stay up latter at night and to sleep in latter in the morning. But most teens can’t complete their sleep cycle because they have to wake up early for school or they are interrupting their cell with technology use.


Sleep needs to become a priority. Teens who are able to establish good sleep habits are significantly less likely to suffer from depression or to have suicidal thoughts. Alaska Sleep Clinic is the leader in Alaska for Pediatric Sleep Studies. We know how important your child is to you and are here to help! Call Alaska Sleep Clinic @ 907-770-9104 in Anchorage, @ 907-420-0540 in Soldotna, @ 907-357-6700 in Wasilla or @ 907-374-3063 in Fairbanks.


Topics: teens, sleep habits

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