Healthy Sleep
Email Header
Full Image
Is Your Teen Tired?
November 2022

Is your teen….tired of always feeling sleepy? Having trouble staying awake in class? Finding it hard to get out of bed for school in the morning? Needing a nap as soon as they get home from school? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Many teenagers feel that they are always tired. Getting enough sleep is a game changer for youth. It supports their mental and physical health, and allows young minds and bodies to develop and function properly.
 Adolescents are entering a period in which they are striving for autonomy and want to make their own decisions, including when to go to sleep. But studies suggest teens do better in terms of mood and fatigue levels if parents set the bedtime (in discussion with their teen) — and choose a time that is realistic for their needs. 

Understanding Sleep
Sleep accounts for 1/4 to 1/3 of the human lifespan. But what exactly happens when you sleep? 
Throughout your time asleep, your brain will cycle repeatedly through two different types of sleep: REM (rapid-eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep.

he first part of the cycle is non-REM sleep, which is composed of four stages.

The first stage comes between being awake and falling asleep.
The second is light sleep, when heart rate and breathing regulate and body temperature drops.
The third and fourth stages are REM and deep sleep. During REM sleep brain waves are similar to those during wakefulness. Breath rate increases and the body becomes temporarily paralyzed as we dream.
Though REM sleep was previously believed to be the most important sleep phase for learning and memory, newer data suggests that non-REM sleep is more important for these tasks, as well as being the more restful and restorative phase of sleep.

There are two main processes that regulate sleep: circadian rhythms and sleep drive.
Circadian rhythms are controlled by a biological clock located in the brain. One key function of this clock is responding to light cues, ramping up production of the hormone melatonin at night, then switching it off when it senses light.
Sleep drive also plays a key role. Your body craves sleep, much like it hungers for food. Throughout the day, your desire for sleep builds, and when it reaches a certain point, you need to sleep. A major difference between sleep and hunger is that your body can’t force you to eat when you’re hungry, but when you’re tired, it can force you to sleep, even if you’re in a meeting or behind the wheel of a car. When you’re exhausted, your body is even able to engage in microsleep episodes of one or two seconds while your eyes are open. 
Hormones also play an important role in signaling and regulating sleep. Melatonin, promotes sleep and is naturally produced as light exposure decreases. Other important sleep-related hormones include adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine. Sleep can also affect the production of vital hormones, such as growth hormone as well as leptin and ghrelin that regulate appetite.

 Sleep Deprivation
Shortage of sleep, can have far-reaching effects on adolescent health and well-being.
Many studies show students who sleep less suffer academically, as chronic sleep loss impairs the ability to remember, concentrate and solve problems. Researchers believe that when we sleep the brain goes through the process of consolidating important information and filtering out the unimportant. When the brain is deprived of that opportunity, the capacity to learn is diminished.
Sleep is believed to help regulate emotions, and its lack is an underlying component of many mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression. For youth who are prone to these disorders, better sleep can help serve as a preventive factor. 

Sleep deprivation also has been shown to lower inhibitions. In the teen brain, the frontal lobe, which helps control impulsivity, isn’t fully developed, so teens are naturally prone to impulsive behavior. When you add inadequate sleep into the mix, it can lead to poor decision making.
 Healthy Sleep Habits
Why do teens need more sleep? Sleep helps to fuel our brain and your body. Teens need more sleep because their bodies and minds are growing quickly.

Studies show that many teens do not get enough sleep. To be at their best teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep every night. 
Data from the 2013-14 Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, reveals that 75% of boys and 62% of girls in grade 10 report they are tired when going to school in the morning. 

Why is it so hard for teens get enough sleep? Teens often have a very busy life, but still need “downtime” to relax, unwind and spend time with friends. This usually happens at the expense of sleeping. Many teens also crave the quiet privacy of a late night after parents have gone to bed.
When you think about all the other things they need to do (homework, socializing, sports, chores, part-time jobs, etc.), getting to bed early enough to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep can be a challenge.
Following are some healthy sleep habits you can share with your teen to support them with getting enough sleep.

Have a relaxing bedtime routine. If you eat before bed make it a light snack. Try to go to bed the same time every night. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet but open the curtains or turn on the lights as soon as you get up in the morning.
Always fall asleep in your bed. Use your bed for sleeping only. Avoid doing homework, using a smartphone or tablet, or playing video games while in bed. Try to be in your bed with the lights out for at least 8 hours every night.

Napping during the day can make it difficult to fall asleep. If you want to nap, keep it short (less than 30 minutes). Definitely don‘t nap after dinner.
Limit screen time before bed. Being exposed late at night to lit screens, sends a message via the retina to the portion of the brain that controls the body’s circadian clock. The message: It’s not nighttime yet.

Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, energy drinks) especially after mid-afternoon. 

Get physical activity every day, but avoid very hard exercise in the evening.
On weekends, no matter how late you go to bed, try to get up within 2-3 hours  of your usual wake time. This is especially important if you have trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights.

Make sure you are not trying to do too much. Do you still have some time for fun and to get enough sleep? If you are having trouble sleeping because you have too much on your mind, try keeping a diary or to-do lists. If you write things down before sleep, you may feel less worried or stressed.


Studies show that over 70 percent of Canadian children are not getting the sleep they need. Sleep is an important factor in both mental and physical health. 

Listen to this podcast episode as a parent and child Psychiatrist  discuss the relationship between sleep and mental and physical health; how technology affects sleep and how to tackle this in your family; and helpful sleep strategies for your child or youth.

November School Poster
. Even without fully grasping what sleep does for us, there is no denying that we feel better when we get the right amount of sleep each night!

It may seem obvious that sleep is beneficial, however this poster features some of the benefits that teens may not connect with getting enough sleep.

Parents You Are There!

There‘s no amount of kale chips, coding apps, home baked cookies, no device expensive enough, no birthday party perfect enough, to replace you. Even on your worst day.

Ninety per cent of parenting is being there for your children, and you are all there. So, good for you. You‘re doing a great job!

We Want to Hear from You!
Do you enjoy the monthly Snapshots? 

Do you have suggestions on how to improve the Snapshots?

Do you have ideas for future topics?

Let us know!
We would love to hear from you!

Resources and Sources

Previous Snapshots
Full Image