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Why Is Your Teen So Sleepy?

Homework – not social pressures – may be the top cause of teen stress and sleep deprivation, according to a new study.


Mary Helen Rogers

VP of Communications, Better Sleep Council

“I’m up until usually 1:30 a.m. working [on homework] and I get very little sleep,” one teenager said in a recent survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council, the not-for-profit consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.  

Another teen admitted in the same survey that his “homework load” was a primary stressor in his daily life. “I rarely make it to bed before midnight and wake up early to finish it,” he said. 

While many of today’s high school students recognize the significance of a good night’s sleep, they are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve this goal with a heavy workload. In fact, American teenagers reported spending 15 or more hours a week on homework, and about one-third of all teens say they spend 20 or more hours a week on it, according to the BSC. 

Here are some other eye-opening findings from the study:

  1. More than half of all teens don’t feel they get enough sleep. More than three-fourths (79 percent) get seven hours of sleep or less on a typical school night. 
  2. Approximately 43 percent of teenagers are going to bed at 11 p.m. or later and one-third of these same teens are waking up at 6 a.m. or earlier. 

We found that teenagers are experiencing this cycle where they sacrifice their sleep to spend extra time on homework, which gives them more stress — but they don’t get better grades. The more stressed teenagers feel, the more likely they are to get less sleep, go to bed later and wake up earlier.

The dangers of pulling all-nighters  

Sleep is a necessity, and it impacts every aspect of our lives, from productivity to our health and our moods. While most people assume that sleep hours cut into their productive academic hours, they are actually more productive when they get sufficient sleep.

So how can parents help teens sleep better? Here are some tips:

  1. Remove screens from your teen’s room 
  2. Don’t let them consume foods or drinks containing caffeine or sugar close to bedtime 
  3. Create an ideal sleep environment that is not too hot or too cold
  4. Check their mattress size to ensure a comfortable fit — especially if your teen has had a recent growth spurt
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