Sleep Matters for Teenagers

One of the most common ways that too much stress can impact any one of us is by affecting our sleep patterns.  While lack of sleep is unhealthy for anyone, this problem can have very serious consequences specifically for teenagers. 

Studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control (2011 & 2016) indicate that insufficient or irregular sleep habits in teenagers is linked to a greater frequency in risky behavior, such as a higher risk of substance use (alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana), a higher risk of getting into physical fights or driving distracted and/or under the influence.  The CDC also linked lack of sleep (7 hours or less) in teens with increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adolescents ages 14-17 get 8-10 hours of sleep a night. 

What happens if teenagers don’t get enough sleep?

  1. Teen athletes are more likely to suffer sports injuries.
  2. More likely to experience a work-related injury.
  3. Significantly higher risk for motor-vehicle crashes.
  4. Infrequent seatbelt use.
  5. Riding with motor-vehicle drivers who’d been drinking

Did you Know?

  • Only 27% of Missoula high school students sleep eight or more hours on an average school night. (YRBS, 2015)

So what can you to do to help your teen be healthy and make healthy decisions?

  • Talk with your teenager about the stressors they may be experiencing and help them come up with a healthy sleep routine.
  • Keep electronics out of their bedroom and discourage screens directly before bedtime.  These can interrupt the body’s natural progression toward sleep.
  • Eat healthy and get regular physical activity. Regular exercise can help enhance your child’s sleep quality and increase sleep duration.

Below is a link to a recent letter about this topic that we sent out to parents of high schoolers in Missoula County Public Schools.

Winter 2016 Parent letter – MCPS

Some community members are advocating for starting school later for high schoolers. To learn more about what is being done in Missoula about this, check out their webpage at