Home article The Big Risks When Teens Are Sleep-Deprived

The Big Risks When Teens Are Sleep-Deprived

The Big Risks When Teens Are Sleep-Deprived

As a teen, you are likely familiar with staying up late finishing homework or talking to your friends. Whether you’re staying up late by choice, or because you are extremely busy with sports, extra-curricular activities and schoolwork, the reality is that most teens are simply not getting enough sleep.

Between busy schedules and the biological changes that come with being a teen (hormones), the CDC states that only 31% of teens get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. The truth, however, is that the average teen needs at least 9 hours of sleep. In my experience, most teens actually get 6-7 hours of sleep. Since sleep can affect mood, concentration and attention, this can be extremely problematic.

Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences for both adults and teens. Let’s take a look at the negative affects this can have for teens.

  1. Difficulty waking up in the morning and getting to school on time. This can even lead to skipping breakfast or running out of time to pack your lunch, so now you are not only sleep-deprived but also hungry. And when rushing out the door, there is a good chance you will forget something you need for school.
  2. Decline in school performance. It is hard to pay attention in class, especially a boring class, when you’re tired. When you don’t pay attention, your notes are lacking, leading you to do poorly on tests. Even with good notes, you will likely find it difficult to focus and perform your best on tests. You might not pay attention to what the homework is, and if you don’t get it done and turned in on time, your grades will suffer.
  3. Mood problems. Lack of sleep causes irritability and can even lead to depression and anxiety. While teens are already known for being a bit irritable, sleep deprivation only exacerbates this. You might snap at your parents or brother more than usual. Some teens even talk back to their teachers! Some other common signs of depression and anxiety are crying a lot, fidgeting, picking, or losing interest in things.
  4. Daytime sleepiness. It seems obvious that if you don’t sleep enough at night, you will be tired during the day. But this can lead to a vicious cycle of sleeping during the day and then not being able to fall asleep at night and not getting enough hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep. Another problem is falling asleep in class. This is more common than you might realize, but both rude and detrimental to your success.
  5. Dangerous driving. All drivers must be alert and focused in order to be safe. This is especially true of teens, who are new to driving and lack experience and good judgment. Drowsy driving results in over 1500 lost lives annually. Since teens are already the most dangerous group of drivers, adding sleep deprivation to that recipe can be disastrous.
  6. Poor decision making. Lack of sleep often leads to poor and impulsive decision making.  You may make choices you would not make if you had been getting enough sleep, because your brain needs adequate sleep in order to function properly.

The reality is that all of us know the importance of sleep. Few of us actually get enough of it. Teens really do need to make sleep a bigger priority, as the consequences of not getting enough sleep can be enormous. Getting more sleep will actually make you more focused and more productive, though, so that you can get more done in less time. It can elevate your mood and help you make better decisions. You might even get better grades! So go ahead, put that phone down, get some sleep, and see if maybe, just maybe, things start to look better for you.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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