Expert advice on teenage sleeping patterns

Allowing teenagers to sleep in can help them catch up on the sleep they miss during the school week. Picture: Supplied

Allowing teenagers to sleep in can help them catch up on the sleep they miss during the school week. Picture: Supplied

Published Jul 8, 2024


The teenage years are a period of intense growth and development, physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

Affinity Health says sleep is one issue that often becomes a point of contention between parents and their teenagers, particularly the tendency for teens to sleep late into the day, especially on weekends and holidays.

“There are pros and cons to consider before deciding whether to allow your teenager to sleep all day,” said the healthcare provider’s CEO, Murray Hewlett.

Understanding teenage sleep patterns

Hewlett noted that teenagers have unique sleep needs and according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, those aged between 13 and 17 require 8–10 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.

But, due to a shift in their circadian rhythms during puberty, most teens naturally fall asleep later at night and, consequently, need to sleep late in the morning.

“This biological change, combined with early school start times and social and academic obligations, often leads to a significant sleep deficit in teenagers,” he said.

The pros of allowing teens to sleep in

1. Catching up on missed sleep

Allowing teenagers to sleep in can help them catch up on the sleep they miss during the school week.

“This catch-up sleep can be vital for their physical and mental health, helping to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation,” Hewlett explained.

2. Respecting biological changes

By permitting teens to follow their natural sleep patterns, parents acknowledge and respect the biological changes their children are undergoing.

“This respect for their bodily needs can foster a more understanding and supportive family environment,” he said.

3. Improved mood and cognitive function

Hewlett believes that extra sleep can lead to improved mood, better cognitive function and higher academic performance.

“Well-rested teens are generally more pleasant, less prone to mood swings and perform better at school.”

Cons of allowing teens to sleep in

1. Disrupted sleep patterns

While catching up on sleep might seem beneficial, sleeping late can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm, Hewlett warned.

“This disruption can make it harder for teenagers to fall asleep at a reasonable hour when the new week begins, leading to a cycle of sleep deprivation.”

2. Reduced daytime productivity

Sleeping through the morning and part of the afternoon can significantly reduce the time available for daytime activities, including studying, exercising and socialising.

Hewlett said that this reduction can impact academic performance, physical health and social development.

3. Missed opportunities for family interaction

When teenagers sleep too much during the day, Hewlett said, they often miss opportunities to engage with family members, participate in shared activities and contribute to household responsibilities.

“This isolation can strain family relationships and hinder the development of life skills,” he said.

4. Striking a balance

Hewlett said the key lies in finding a balance that respects teenagers’ biological needs, while also promoting healthy habits and family integration.

Here are some of his suggested strategies to consider:

1. Set reasonable limits

Agree on a reasonable weekend wake-up time that allows for extra sleep, but doesn’t waste the entire day.

“This compromise respects your teen’s need for more sleep, while maintaining a more consistent sleep schedule.”

2. Promote good sleep hygiene

Encourage habits that promote better sleep, such as limiting screen time before bed, creating a comfortable sleep environment and maintaining a regular sleep schedule as much as possible.

3. Foster open communication

Hewlett suggested that parents discuss the importance of sleep and its impact on health and well-being with their teenager.

“Understanding the reasons behind sleep guidelines can motivate teens to adopt healthier sleep practices,” he said.

4. Encourage daytime productivity

Hewlett said that parents can help their teenager create a balanced schedule that includes time for sleep, studies, physical activity, socialising and family time.

“A structured but flexible plan can help teens manage their time more effectively,” he said.