How to Help Your Exhausted Teen Get Enough Sleep

How to Help Your Exhausted Teen Get Enough Sleep

Not that long ago, school busses in many states were picking up high school students just after 5:00 a.m.  

A concerned parent co-founded an organization – Start School Later – to persuade school districts to set hours that allow teens to get more sleep. And that’s a good thing, because experts recommend teenagers get 8 to 10 hours of sleep on school nights.

This is especially important for teens who’ve experienced trauma, since a good sleep routine is important to their recovery.

On average teens need nine hours of sleep per night to be in top form, but most are not getting it. By the 12th grade, they’re logging an average of fewer than seven hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

The problem with sleep-deprived teens? They’re at an increased risk for aggression and violence, car accidents, smoking and drinking, and doing worse in everything from schoolwork to sports, according to the NSF.

Here is some science-based advice for parents who want to help their teen get enough rest:

Realize that teens are on a different sleep cycle. Puberty is the beginning of a new sleep-wake cycle, which may move up to two hours later. This is why it’s hard for them to fall asleep before 11 or to wake up in the morning.

Make a regular “screens off & lights out” routine. Child and teen psychologist Barbara Greenberg, PhD, of Fairfield, Connecticut, explains that kids often like such a limit so they have an excuse to stop texting and finish their homework. “Without a firm bedtime, some kids feel obligated to keep texting with friends or responding to social media till all hours,” she says. “Having one is actually a relief for them.”

Cut back on outside activities if necessary. If your kids are juggling school, sports, volunteer work, and a part-time job, they may need to drop one to have some time to rest. Do make sure they get enough physical activity, though – that can make it easier to get a good night’s sleep.

Check on caffeine intake. Discourage energy drinks, coffee and caffeinated tea – all these can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Get involved in rolling back school start times. The American Academy of Pediatrics is on your side: It recommends that middle schools and high schools start no sooner than 8:30 a.m.  If they need convencing, the group Start Schools Later can point you to plenty of research showing that students with later start times do better at school.


Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014, November). Factsheets for Families: Parenting a Child Who Has Experienced Trauma. Retrieved from

National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.) Teens and Sleep. Retrieved from

Start School Later. A grassroots organization dedicated to healthy school start times.

Photo credits: Shutterstock