Insomnia in teenagers

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Insomnia in teenagers is being reported with increasing frequency, and doctors acknowledge that it's a real problem for some teenagers these days.


Why should I be aware of this?

There’s a difference between teenage insomnia (adolescent insomnia) and adult insomnia. Insomnia in teens can be caused by a unique set of circumstances caused by changing physiology, life changes and stress.

Due to the demands of a growing body and hormonal imbalances, the circadian rhythm - the "internal body clock" that regulates the (approximately) 24-hour cycle of biological processes - undergoes a change when children attain puberty. And when this coincides with heavier school activity, maybe a part time job, dating, sports and a social life, it leads to insomnia amongst teenagers.

Insomnia in teenagers and health

Teen insomnia significantly increases the severity of mental health problems. Studies have shown that males suffering from insomnia were more likely to consume alcohol and use different drugs. Females, on the other hand, were more likely to develop depression.

All about insomnia in teenagers

Teenage is usually the time of exploration and discovery. This is the time when they start drinking, smoking, and staying out late with their friends. This leads them to drink coffee to stay alert during the day. Such habits, not only aggravate insomnia in teenagers but also may give rise to other sleep disorders.

Stress in school, like peer pressure, school performance, and relationship with teachers can also contribute to insomnia.

Can start in childhood

It is also possible that insomnia can start as early as childhood and continue up to the teenage years. Insomnia in children usually occurs when the child has become dependent on a person or condition that he/she associates with sleep - for example, a parent. Without that, these children have a hard time sleeping.

Insomnia is also one of the symptoms of mood disorder. Adolescents who develop depression are also likely to develop insomnia. While there are genuine biological causes of teen insomnia, there are many teenagers who are not getting enough sleep because they simply choose to sleep less. This is mostly because of lifestyle behavior in which caffeinated drinks, computers and TV have big roles to play.

Sleep patterns are established soon after a child’s birth. It is important to establish regular sleeping patterns for infants once they are 17 months old. Once a pattern is established, it can have a lasting impact, perhaps for life. It can go a long way to avoiding problems as the child becomes a teenager.

Delayed circadian clock

There are also the other reasons for insomnia that most adults suffer from. Teenagers are also able to suffer from these causes as well. One of these reasons is that they have inherited a delayed circadian clock. In other words, whenever the clock on the wall says that it is 10 P.M., their bodies are telling them that it is only 8 P.M.

What can I do?

Teens suffering from insomnia should ensure that they get regular exercise during the day. They should establish a relaxing pattern prior to going to bed. Taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or just enjoying a nice, warm glass of milk (not coffee) are ideal. If you still can’t get to sleep, rather than tossing and turning, flick the light on and start reading. That may be all that it takes to get you drifting off

Given below are some ways to treat insomnia in teenagers. You may do them on your own, it is advisable that you consult a doctor or qualified medical practitioner.

  • Expose your teens to bright light in the mornings. Exposure to light in the morning makes them aware that it’s time to wake up. Conversely, keeping the room dark can signal to the body that it is time to sleep.
  • Give Melatonin medication. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone which can help if given 5 hours before the desired bedtime. There are likely side effects, so use this means as a last resort.
  • Encourage exercise during the day, but avoid all physical exertion within three hours before bedtime. Regular exercise can help establish healthy sleep patterns.
  • Discourage them from doing anything mentally stimulating, such as homework, one hour before bedtime.
  • Decrease caffeine in their diet.
  • Remove distractions, like the telephone or TV, from their bedroom.
  • Eliminate anxiety before bedtime.


  • In a study among 1,014 teenagers aged 13 to 16, one-third reported having sleep problems at some point during their lives. 94% reported experiencing difficulty sleeping at least twice a week for a month or longer during the previous year. Nearly a third of this group also reported psychiatric illness.
  • Nearly 17% of the teens appeared to be suffering from chronic insomnia beginning at an average age of 11.
  • Lower socioeconomic level correlated with increased insomnia risk. Girls had a 50% higher risk than boys for insomnia symptoms.
  • The risk of developing insomnia among the teen girls correlated with puberty. There was a "significant jump in insomnia" after their first period.
  • Among the boys no association was found between their pubertal development and insomnia. [1]


  • Teenage Insomnia, Difficult To Treat
  • Insomnia in teenagers
  • How to Help Your Teens Conquer Insomnia


  1. Sleep Disorders Health Center