Insomnia in Teenagers: What You Should Know

Many parents ask questions about insomnia in teenagers because their children don't get enough sleep and then walk around the house like zombies. Read on to learn all about it!
Insomnia in Teenagers: What You Should Know

Last update: 22 December, 2019

There’s no doubt that, between the ages of 13 and 16, many changes happen at a physical, hormonal, and mental level. Although it’s believed to be part of the typical “rebelliousness” of this stage, the fact is that insomnia in teenagers has more to do with biology.

Find out more below.

The sleep cycle in teens

Before talking about insomnia in teenagers, it’s necessary to know a little about their sleep cycle. In theory, teens should sleep for about eight hours every night. However, most don’t comply with this recommendation. And it’s not out of spite!

The biological clock and circadian rhythms (which are responsible for sleep and wakefulness) during this stage are revved up, just like their hormones. This is perhaps why they stay awake all night or can sleep for an entire weekend.

Daily obligations such as school, clubs, or extracurricular activities don’t allow them to sleep all the hours they need, which makes them look like zombies all day. It’s impossible for them to pay attention in class, engage in sports, or study at home.

Causes of insomnia in teenagers

Although experts don’t know for sure why teenagers don’t sleep as they should, we can say that certain factors can make them more prone to insomnia. First of all, we have genetics.

If the child’s parents have trouble falling asleep, they’re also likely to suffer from this problem. Although this doesn’t always happen, this factor must be taken into account.

It’s also common for stress, poor diet, family pressures, or even bad schedule organization to lead teens to suffer from insomnia. Therefore, experts say it’s essential for them to sleep enough hours from an early age.

Third of all, both physical and emotional hyper-arousal is another factor. Often, this excitement or acceleration is caused by the use of video games, watching action movies, or looking at their phones for many hours (watching videos, checking social media, playing games, watching TV series, etc).

Insomnia in Teenagers: What You Should Know

There are other causes of insomnia in teenagers to keep in mind, including: certain health problems such as asthma, headaches, rhinitis, and allergies; anxiety before an exam, a trip, or a move; depression due to poor grades, an impossible love or problems with friends; or the intake of stimulants before bedtime, such as as coffee or soda.

Believe it or not, insomnia in teenagers may also be caused by room temperature or if there’s too much light or noise. Practicing sports after sunset is another possible cause, as this reactivates their body.

Symptoms of insomnia in teenagers

Sleep deprivation isn’t always synonymous with insomnia. That’s the first thing you should know. This way, you won’t worry if your child stays up late or wakes up at noon on Saturdays. You have to pay more attention if it becomes a habit.

As a parent, you must be alert to changes in their behavior and their physique, as it’ll seem that your child changes every day. Some warning signs of insomnia in teenagers are:

1. Fatigue

Your child seems listless 24 hours of the day, even after a long nap or having slept many hours during the weekend. Maybe you talk to them and they fall asleep at the table or while watching a movie.

2. Trouble concentrating

Although insomnia makes teens be on constant alert, that doesn’t mean they can pay attention to what happens around them. Often, teens who don’t sleep well have trouble concentrating at school, following orders, and doing certain tasks or their homework.

Insomnia in Teenagers: What You Should Know

3. Irritability

Although we know that adolescence is a stage characterized by mood swings, if we add insomnia to the mix, you’ll never be able to talk to them or ask them to do something.

Insomnia in teenagers: how to help

Don’t let them use electronic devices two hours before bedtime, offer them light dinners, make sure their room is at a suitable temperature, the light is off, and there’s no noise, and allow them to take a nap after lunch. If the problem persists, consult a doctor.


While it’s normal for teens to experience insomnia during specific times, such as when they have school-related concerns, insomnia in teenagers shouldn’t be overlooked when it becomes common. Even if your teen doesn’t complain, it’s important to take them to the doctor if you see that they’re not well.

Remember that it isn’t advisable to resort to medications or natural remedies without consulting your teen’s doctor first. The best thing to do is to review their lifestyle habits and follow the medical professional’s instructions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Pin Arboledas, G., Soto Insuga, V., Jurado Luque, M. J., Fernández Gomariz, C., Hidalgo Vicario, I., Lluch Roselló, A., … Madrid, J. A. (2017). Insomnio en niños y adolescentes. Documento de consenso. Pediatria Integral.
  • Donskoy, Innessa, and Darius Loghmanee. “Insomnia in Adolescence.” Medical sciences (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 6,3 72. 1 Sep. 2018, doi:10.3390/medsci6030072

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.