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How much sleep does a teenager need? Your questions, answered

Worried about your teenager’s sleeping patterns? We’ve answered some of the most common questions asked by parents on our Talk boards. 

By Louise Baty | Last updated Mar 17, 2023

Teenage sleep with Bensons for Beds

In association with

Aah, teenagers… If they’re not raiding the fridge or stretching out across the sofa and commandeering the TV remote, then where will you most likely find them? Having a kip in bed, of course! Ever noticed how teens need a heck of a lot of shut eye? 

In fact, parents on our Talk boards often chat about the hours and hours (and hours) their teen DCs can spend, snuggled up. 

“Sometimes they don't emerge until 1-2pm..” disclosed one parent. All that time snuggled under a duvet may seem like, erm, a lot. But, actually, there’s little wonder that teenagers need SO much rest. After all, during adolescence, the entire body, including the brain, is still undergoing major developmental changes. 

As this Mumsnetter says: “I let my DD sleep until she wakes (and just enjoy the peace and quiet in the meantime 😁). The rate of change in teenage bodies and brains is absolutely astonishing and I think they need almost as much sleep as newborns. Plus, their body clock is shifted, meaning that they naturally go to sleep and wake later.” 

So how much does a teenager need to sleep?

“My (almost) teen is in the middle of it all (voice broken, growing a lot - about half an inch a month, etc and he’s always tired. He struggles to get up in the morning but doesn’t want to go to bed any earlier… [Is it] normal to be tired during a growth spurt?” Iloveitall

According to mattress specialists, Bensons for Beds, sleep experts recommend that most teenagers need to sleep for 8 to 10 hours each night (Hirshkowitz 2015). While eight hours is the recommended minimum, a minority of teens will thrive on a bit less, while others may need more than 10 hours. 

Younger teens, and those who do a lot of sport for example, are likely to need more sleep than older teens, or those who are less active.

Where should a teenager sleep?

Your teen’s sleeping arrangements are crucial. For a settled night, they need a comfy place to rest their head. For starters, they need a bed big enough to accommodate their growing bodies. And where to find the best mattress for teens? Bensons for Beds of course! Afterall, their Flip by Slumberland 2-in-1 mattress is designed specifically for growing bodies. 

Softer on one side for when they're smaller, and firmer on the other side, for when they're bigger, Flip by Slumberland supports kids from pre-teen to adulthood. In a recent survey commissioned by Bensons for Beds, more than 8 in 10 of those asked admitted to not having their kids’ growth in mind when buying a mattress and 36 per cent said their child’s mattress simply came with their bed frame.

However, 85 per cent of survey participants also understood that a child's mattress must change as they grow, to accommodate body changes and sleep pattern shifts. As parents on our forums often have questions around teens and sleep, we’ve teamed up with Bensons for Beds’ Sleep Expert, Dr Sophie Bostock, to address some of the most frequently asked questions.

Why is sleep so important for teens?

“He needs a lot of sleep and normally doesn't get up to lunchtime at weekends.” axolotlfloof 

According to Bensons for Beds, the recommendation to get at least eight hours of sleep is drawn from hundreds of studies looking at the association between the amount of sleep teens get and short term outcomes like concentration and emotion regulation, as well as long term outcomes like risk of diabetes and weight gain. 

Here, we take a look at exactly why sleep is important for teens as their bodies change, develop and grow…

Sleep and teenagers

1. Learning to control impulses and emotions

The brain’s prefrontal cortex matures during the teenage years and early adulthood. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for our ability to think about the consequences of actions, solve problems and control impulses. This is why teenagers are more prone to risky behaviour, stronger emotions and impulsive decision making than adults.

2. Sleep deprived teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviours

Sleep deprivation at any age can impair the performance of the prefrontal cortex, but in teenagers, who start with lower capacity, the effects are more marked. Studies have found that sleep deprived teens are more likely to engage in a range of risk taking behaviours including smoking, drinking alcohol, risky sexual behaviour and failure to use a seatbelt.

3. Develops their memory

During sleep, important memories are moved into the larger cortex, which is like the brain’s hard drive. This transfer frees up more capacity for us to concentrate and learn the next day.

4. It affects their attention span

Sleep deprived teens find it harder to pay attention in class, to think creatively or to retain new facts. Several studies have found a link between lack of sleep and poor academic performance. 

5. Lack of sleep affects the ‘fight or flight’ response

While the prefrontal cortex is still developing, teenagers rely on a part of the brain called the amygdala to make decisions and solve problems more than adults do. The amygdala is responsible for switching on the ‘fight or flight’ stress response. It is associated with emotions, aggression and instinctive behaviour.

6. Interferes with hormone production

Lack of sleep can interfere with the production of growth hormone and testosterone, which help to repair damaged tissues and develop muscle, especially in growing bodies. 

7. It affects their metabolism

There are strong links between sleep and metabolism, with both short and long sleep (>10 hours) linked to decreased insulin sensitivity, which is a marker of risk for diabetes.

8. Can lead to higher body fat

One recent study found that both lack of activity and night to night variation in sleep timing were linked to higher body fat in teenagers.

Do most teens get enough sleep?

“Teens do need a lot of sleep. They also need a lot of food.” LagneyandCasey

Sadly, research has found that not all teens are getting enough quality sleep. In fact, data from the US suggests that only around 15% of teenagers are routinely getting more than eight hours sleep. Fewer than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis is likely to lead to symptoms of sleep deprivation including poor concentration, irritability, more impulsive behaviour, mood swings, sleepiness, memory lapses, frequent infections or low motivation. 

Sleep timing and consistency can also influence the quality of sleep, and how you feel during the day. The ideal is to wake up and fall asleep at a similar time each day, rather than a more typical teenage model of sleeping less during the week and attempting to catch up on weekends.

Teenager on laptop in bed

Why do teenagers struggle to get enough sleep?

“I don't mind late nights but I don't want him turning nocturnal and sleeping the entire day away. Not in a controlling way, just in a 'he's 15, not 18 and right now, he still needs a touch of parenting!'” HardRockOwl

Teens will happily spend a whole evening fiddling with their phone, listening to music, chatting to friends online or gaming. They may even <gasps> do school work! But just how late is too late?

You may find that your teen is routinely going to bed much later than everyone else, which can lead to lack of sleep and sluggish mornings. While you may assume your teen is just being difficult, there’s actually a scientific reason for their preference to late nights. 

What does biology have to do with teen body clocks?

“Teenagers need sleep and their body clock makes them want to sleep later.” Paq

Our body clocks - or circadian rhythms are the two main influences on sleep timing - and both of these change during puberty. 

Generally, our body clocks are programmed for us to be active during the day, and to rest in the dark at night, but our preferred bedtime varies a lot. Our innate preference for sleep-wake timing is called our chronotype, and can change at different ages. Young children and the elderly tend to wake up and fall asleep early; they are most likely to have an ‘early bird’ chronotype. 

Teenagers and young adults typically have a ‘night owl’ chronotype; this means they rarely feel sleepy before 11pm (often later), and will struggle to feel fully alert until after 10am. An alarm going off at 7am for a teenager feels like waking at 5am for most adults!

In the evening, the sleep hormone, melatonin, signals the brain and body to prepare for sleep. Adults usually start to produce melatonin before 9pm, around 90 minutes before the onset of sleep, whereas the average teen’s melatonin production starts several hours later. Expecting a teenager to go to bed at 10pm is a bit like asking an adult to be in bed at 8pm; most of us are just not that sleepy.

In addition to our body clocks, a second drive to sleep comes from the build up of a drowsy-inducing chemical called adenosine. The more hours we’ve been awake, the greater the sleepiness from adenosine; this is called ‘sleep pressure’. Sleep pressure accumulates in teens more slowly than in adults, which is another reason they feel sleepy later than their parents.

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation because they have to operate at odds with their body clocks to wake up and get to school. They have to get up early, but if they only rely on sleepiness as a cue for sleep, they won’t want to get into bed until after midnight.

Teens will often sleep in on weekends in an attempt to catch up on lost sleep. Although this might sound like a sensible strategy, the rapid switching of the body clock every Monday morning can cause more stress on the body and add to feelings of fatigue.

Flip by Slumberland mattress

Pictured: Bensons for Beds’ exclusive Flip by Slumberland mattress, designed especially for growing teens

How does puberty affect teen sleep?

“Teens are naturally night owls.” Hakefish

If you think about all the growth that teens do during these important years, it’s unsurprising that they need so much rest. 

However, puberty can also hinder sleep. Delays to the body clock typically appear around the onset of puberty, when there are surges in sex hormones. For girls in particular, puberty can also be accompanied by difficulties falling asleep and waking up during the night.

Fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone can have an unsettling impact on sleep. Girls who experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) often report insomnia symptoms, disturbed dreams or excessive sleepiness during the day.

Can stress affect sleep for teens?

“DD (14) has said that she's struggling to get to sleep at night and often wanders about at midnight or tries to sleep but is kept awake by her thoughts.” AmICrazyorWhat2 

For many teenagers, life can feel overwhelming. School and homework have to be balanced with extra-curricular activities and social time, any of which can squeeze time for sleep. Older teens may also have part-time jobs or caring responsibilities. There can also be pressure to prepare for exams, make decisions about a future career or just to fit in with friendship groups.

Stress results in the activation of the ‘fight or flight’ stress response, which directly interferes with sleep. Whatever our age, if we feel stressed at our normal bedtime, the release of stress hormones means that we feel less sleepy, and if we do fall asleep, we are more likely to wake up during the night.

Is screen time at bedtime a bad idea for teens?

“Phones put on charge in the hallway is part of the ritual of going to bed. It's just established as that's where phones live overnight.” FATEdestiny

Teens and screens go hand in hand, right? But actually, research has found that the more time teenagers spend on screens, the more likely they are to suffer from sleep deprivation, and poor sleep quality.  However, teens who have sleep difficulties are also more likely to reach for their phones as a distraction, so it’s unlikely that the screens are entirely responsible for poor sleep.

Exposure to bright light before bed can delay and interfere with melatonin, which will make teens less sleepy. Screens tend to emit light which is rich in blue wavelength light, which has a particularly alerting effect on the body clock. However, the intensity of light from screens tends to be very low. Bright overhead lights could have a stronger alerting effect.

A major disadvantage of getting engrossed in phones or video games before bedtime is that they displace sleep time. Teens in flow during a video game find it hard to switch off and go to sleep.

Quality sleep for teenagers

How can you help your teen get quality sleep?  

There are some tried and tested ways for helping your teen get a settled night, like the following tips from Mumsnet and Bensons for Beds sleep expert, Dr Sophie Bostock:

  • Stick to the same wake up and wind down schedule as often as possible, even on weekends.
  • Aim for a minimum of 8.5 hours in bed, every night. Younger teens are likely to need more than this.
  • Spend at least 15 minutes outside in daylight, or with a bright SAD lamp, in the first hour after waking. This helps the body clock to know that it’s time to start the clock on the day.
  • Get active every day - this might just mean going for a walk, or doing some gentle stretching.
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
  • Dim bright lights and limit exposure to screens (or use night mode) in the last 90 minutes before bed. Leave screens outside the bedroom.
  • Try to eat something within the first 2 hours of waking up, and avoid eating large meals or very sugary snacks in the last 2 hours before getting into bed. In general a healthy unprocessed diet will support good sleep.
  • Design a consistent bedtime routine for the last 30-60 minutes before bed. Relaxing rituals can help to prepare the body for a deep sleep. For example, journalling, reading a book, crafts, listening to music, meditating or having a warm bath.
  • Support teens to plan ahead to avoid working late at night.
  • Create a safe haven for sleep. Keep the bedroom tidy, comfortable, cool, dark and quiet.
  • Support the whole family to sleep well; keep phones outside the bedroom. Agree a set time to switch off technology.

Choose the new Flip by Slumberland from Bensons for Beds, the 2-in-1 mattress for growing teens. Averaging just 15p per sleep*, the Flip by Slumberland mattress is a sound investment for promoting a sound night's sleep. Available at and in store at Bensons for Beds, priced from £349. *Based on Double 135 x 190 at £449 RRP

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About Bensons for Beds

Bensons for Beds is a British bed retailer, selling a diverse range of beds, mattresses and bedroom furniture across its 170+ stores and online.

With over 70 years of retail and manufacturing experience to its name, Bensons understands the importance of creating the tailored sleep experience for customers, putting Sleep Wellness™ at the heart of everything it does.