Sleep Problems During Adolescence

Sleep problems during adolescence have to do with teens' change of cycle, the production of melatonin and other factors that can affect their daily life. Do you know how to help your teenage child?
Sleep Problems During Adolescence

Last update: 10 December, 2019

Sleep problems during adolescence can lead to fatigue, poor school performance, moodiness, and even depression. This is a stage when adolescents begin to sleep fewer hours. However, their physiology still requires at least 9 hours of daily rest to maintain adequate physical, mental, and emotional health.

In reality, it’s very common for teens not to get the rest they need. As a result, this can have a negative effect in all areas of their lives.

The importance of a good sleep routine

Sleep is an indispensable physiological process, and its role is of great importance in the early development of the brain, in learning, and in memory.

“During puberty, the brain has a second growth surge in which it creates many new neural networks. This occurs between 10 and 13 years of age and continues until the mid-20s. The brain is highly receptive to new information and is receptive to acquiring new skills. For this process to develop properly, people need a good night’s sleep.”

– Medical Journal of Las Condes –

Adolescence is a stage full of hormonal and growth-related biological changes, and this gives a transformation at an emotional, social and psychological level. That’s why it’s so important to sleep enough hours of quality sleep. In this way, a teenager won’t experience sleep problems during adolescence.

Causes of sleep problems during adolescence

As we’ve already said, during this stage young people still need to sleep a minimum of 9 hours a day. However, their internal biological clock doesn’t allow them to fall asleep early. Combined with the fact that at 6 or 7 in the morning they have to get up to go to school, this doesn’t give them sufficient sleep.

This change in rhythm is due to the fact that their melatonin production occurs later than in children and adults.

If we add to this the use of the mobile phone in bed, things can go from bad to worse. The light from these devices can also alter their circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock we were talking about before. When the cycle of sleep and wakefulness begins to affect a teen’s daily life, we call it “delayed sleep phase syndrome.”

Sleep Problems During Adolescence

The main sleep problems during adolescence


Insomnia can strike at bedtime, but also in the middle of the night, when teenagers wake up and can’t get back to sleep again. Poor sleep hygiene is directly related to bad health habits: smoking, excessive caffeine, and alcohol. Even a bad family environment can cause the onset of insomnia.

To some extent, a teenager can have occasional insomnia without this being a problem. However, when the inability to fall asleep lasts more than a month, then doctors consider it to be chronic insomnia. This may be caused by a medical condition or even substance abuse. In this case, we recommend that your child sees a doctor for an assessment.

Restless leg syndrome

This is a disorder of neurological origin in which there is a constant need to move your legs and sometimes also your arms. This tends to go from bad to worse as the night goes on. The consequences of this syndrome greatly affect a person’s quality of life, as it causes fatigue, attention deficit, and hyperactivity, among other things.

Obstructive sleep apnea

This is a disorder that causes people to stop breathing for a few seconds while sleeping. It’s due to an obstruction of the tonsils by an enlarged adenoid. Although it doesn’t always cause them to wake up at night, their quality of sleep isn’t adequate and they wake up feeling tired and irritable.

There are many other conditions that can cause sleep problems. These range from those that require medical attention, such as reflux, through to nightmares and sleepwalking that are very typical in adolescence.

Sleep Problems During Adolescence

How do sleep problems affect adolescence?

  • Chronic tiredness and the inability to concentrate
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Moodiness and problems living with others

How can we help our teens to have a good sleep hygiene?

  • Establish schedules
  • Limit the use of devices
  • Promote relaxing activities

Sleep problems during adolescence are quite common, but we would advise you to be alert and to deal with them as soon as they start occurring so they don’t lead to more complex situations.

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.

  • Portuondo Alacán, O., Fernández Rivero, C. G., & Cabrera Amigo, P. (2000). Trastornos del suen̈o en adolescentes. Revista Cubana de Pediatria.
  • Salcedo Aguilar, F., Rodríguez Almonacid, F. M., Monterde Aznar, M. L., García Jiménez, M. A., Redondo Martínez, P., & Marcos Navarro, A. I. (2005). Hábitos de sueño y problemas relacionados con el sueño en adolescentes: Relación con el rendimiento escolar. Atencion Primaria.
  • Merino Andréu, M., Álvarez Ruiz De Larrinaga, A., Madrid Pérez, J. A., Martínez Martínez, M. Á., Puertas Cuesta, F. J., Asencio Guerra, A. J., … Barriuso Esteban, B. (2016). Sueño saludable: Evidencias y guías de actuación. Documento oficial de la Sociedad Española de Sueño. Revista de Neurologia.

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