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How much sleep do teens need
Sep 04 2019

How much sleep do teens need

Mental Health

For years, experts have stressed that teens are short on rest, needing at least nine hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can lead to problems such as reduced performance at school and poor decision making, exacerbating existing mental health or behavioral issues. However, a study has found that seven hours of sleep is in fact the most optimal amount of rest, at least for teens.

The study, conducted by Brigham Young University, investigated the association between sleep and academic performance in teens aged between 10 to 19. Using data obtained from over 1,700 primary and secondary school students, the study sought to challenge the form of research used in the studies that established the federal guideline of nine hours. In the research used for the federal guidelines, people were simply asked to sleep as much as they felt they needed to.

Study challenged federal guideline of 9 hours

Instead of asking students to simply keep sleeping until they felt satisfied, the researchers compared standardized test data with different amounts of sleep in order to find the most optimal one for academic performance. “If you used that same approach for a guideline on how much people should eat, you would put them in a well-stocked pantry and just watch how much they ate until they felt satisfied. Somehow that doesn’t seem right,” said Mark Showalter, co-author of the study.

The researchers concluded that not only did teens need less sleep than had been originally believed, but they needed lower amounts as they got older to achieve their highest test scores. The optimal amount of sleep for some age groups of the young adults included the following:

  • 9 – 9.5 hours for 10 year olds
  • 8 – 8.5 hours for 12 year olds
  • 7 hours for 16 year olds

Also, teens that slept more than the aforementioned optimal amounts had a stronger association with lower test scores. Whether this trend reversed with adulthood, validating the original guidelines of more sleep equaling better cognitive function, is unknown.

Although the association between sleep time and academic performance was strong throughout the study, correlation does not equal causation and higher test scores does not necessarily mean “better” in general. Since no causal relationship was identified, it is unknown if lower amounts of sleep really do cause improved cognitive functioning to begin with. Even if a cause and effect relationship was established, the study says nothing in regards to its effect on mental and physical health. Increased cognitive function can lead to higher levels of stress and anxiety, making the more “optimal” amounts of sleep more straining on the mind and body. Also, the data used in the study came from self-proclaimed sleep habits – since ascertaining when exactly one falls asleep is almost impossible to do accurately oneself, the data could be skewed by the people’s perception, reducing the credibility of the results.

Sleep and health risks

Some studies have actually found teens that get fewer than eight hours of sleep are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as smoking cigarettes or marijuana, drinking, excessive computer use (more than three hours a day), and poor exercise. Poor mental health was also linked to lower rates of sleep such as feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation in teens. The study, involving 12,000 teens, surveyed young adults with mental health and behavioral issues in an attempt to establish an association with lack of sleep. The majority of almost 70 percent reported sleeping less than eight hours a night, implying a causal relationship between less sleep and risky behavior.

Another similar study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that teens who had less than their recommended amount of 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep a night were more at the risk of suffering from anxiety and depression together. The majority of teens reported increased levels in feelings of sadness, unhappiness, and depression, excessive worrying, anxiousness, and stress with reduced hours of sleep. Other studies have linked sleep loss to physical ailments as well such as drug use, obesity, and hypertension.


Growing rates of depression among teens is a matter of grave concern. Depression is one of the most common yet serious mental health disorder. It affects a teenager’s thinking, behavior, and thought patterns thereby affecting their daily lives. Moreover, depression has been identified as one of the leading causes of teen suicides. Suicide is the second leading cause of deaths among individuals aged between 10 and 34. It is therefore, important to identify symptoms of depression and seek treatment at the earliest.

Adeona Healthcare, the leading teenage rehab facility for adolescents aged between 12 to 17, offers evidence-based treatment approaches for the management of teen depression and anxiety. Our experienced staff offers age-appropriate delicate care in a safe and secure environment. To know more about our anxiety treatment programs and depression treatment programs for teens, call our 24/7 helpline (888) 379-9360 and speak to a representative. You can also chat online to get more information about other behavioral and mental health problems and treatments offered.