Lack of Sleep and Depression in Teens

Although there is definitely a link between lack of sleep and depression in teens, it's not always clear which comes first. According to the National Sleep Foundation website, lack of sleep can cause depression in teens 1. However, depression can also lead to sleep difficulties. Combating this cycle of depression and sleep deprivation requires teens to make sleep a high priority.

Depression and Sleep Problems

According to the child development experts at the Kids Health website, as many as one in eight teens suffers from depression 23. Sometimes depression stems from a lack of sleep, while other times, depression makes sleep difficulties worse. Some teens begin sleeping more when they become depressed, and others experience insomnia. A 2008 study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that length of sleep is even associated with suicide in teens 4. Teens who slept for less than five hours or greater than 10 hours were at a greater risk of suicide.

Healthy Amounts of Sleep

Many teens don't get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation website, most teens need slightly more than nine hours of sleep each night to function at their best 1. Some teens, however, can function well with just over eight hours of sleep. Waking early for school can contribute to sleep problems for many teens, as their biological clocks don't prepare them to go to sleep until late in the evening 3. As a result, many teens don't get enough sleep on school nights and spend much of their days off sleeping late.

Solutions to Teen Sleeping Problems

There are several steps teens can take to improve their sleep habits. According to the National Sleep Foundation website, teens should avoid caffeine late in the day 1. Also, bright screens, such as:

  • television screens
  • computer monitors
  • cell phone screens
  • should be avoided within an hour of bedtime as they can interrupt the body's natural sleep cycle

A regular sleep routine helps teens' bodies prepare to go to bed and wake at the same time each day.

When to Seek Professional Help

If your teen experiences depression or an inability to remedy sleep problems on his own, seek professional help. Talk to your child's doctor about treatment options. Sometimes sleep difficulties can be caused by underlying health issues, such as acid reflux. At other times, treating the depression can remedy sleep problems. According to Kids Health professionals, depression can be successfully treated 80 percent of the time 2. Common treatments for depression include therapy or medication.