Sleep and Mental Health: Why a Good Night’s Rest Is Critical for Teens

Raising Teens |

Consistently getting good sleep is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. Sleep is essential and not getting enough of it can lead to a number of health problems and disorders. Teens, in particular, need to get good sleep as they are growing and developing. Physicians recommend that adolescents get between eight and 10 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, it is estimated that most teens are sleep deprived and only about 15% of teens actually get enough sleep. While the demands of school, family, and other activities and responsibilities can be difficult to balance, it is critical that teens get enough sleep for their physical and mental health.

What Does Sleep Have to Do With Mental Health?

Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Not getting enough sleep can result in having trouble concentrating and remembering things, and it can negatively affect mood and cause depression, among other issues and disorders. Chronic sleep disorders affect between 50 and 80% of people who have diagnosed psychiatric conditions versus the 10 to 18% of the general American population. Disrupted or insufficient sleep impairs thinking and emotional regulation, which can result in increased aggression and irritability, mood swings, anxiety, depression and other serious mental health conditions. Sleep problems may increase the risk for particular mental health disorders and, conversely, treating the sleep disorder can help alleviate mental health disorder symptoms.

What Are the Signs of Sleep Deprivation?

Feeling tired is not the only sign of not getting enough sleep. There are many different signs and symptoms that may indicate sleep deprivation, including:

  • Difficulty waking in the morning
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Falling grades
  • Problems with relationships
  • Increased sugar or caffeine intake
  • Falling asleep during class or throughout the day
  • Physical illnesses
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

For adolescents who are chronically sleep deprived, these symptoms may always be present and it can be easy to lose sight of the real cause. Taking steps to get more sleep is important to preventing, identifying and treating a potential mental health disorder.

What Can I Do to Improve My Teen’s Sleep?

Improving your teen’s sleep begins with making sleep a priority. Establishing a consistent bedtime and wake time is the most important first step. Teens need between 8 and 10 hours each night at consistent times. Other things you can do include:

  • Always fall asleep in bed
  • Exercise every day
  • Avoid consuming sugar or caffeine late in the day
  • Avoid using screens in the hour before bed and use nighttime filters in the evening
  • Not falling asleep with a screen on
  • Keep bedrooms dark at night and let in light in the morning
  • Don’t nap too long or close to bedtime
  • Keep a sleep diary to figure out what works and what does not

Getting enough sleep is not only essential for your teen; it’s important for the entire family. Modeling good sleep patterns as a lifestyle can help set your family on a healthier path.

This article was written by Gretchen Pruitt from The Recovery Village. The Recovery village is a network of rehabilitation facilities that offers comprehensive treatment for substance abuse disorders as well as co-occurring mental health conditions. To learn more go to:


Hale, Lauren, and Wendy Troxel. “Embracing the School Start Later Movement: Adolescent Sleep Deprivation as a Public Health and Social Justice Problem.” American Journal of Public Health 108.5 (2018): 599-600. ProQuest. Web. 22 Apr. 2019. “Teens and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation. Accessed April 22, 2019. “Sleep and Mental Health.” Accessed April 22, 2019.