Why one teenager may need more—or less—sleep than another

August 30, 2017 by Leigh Hopper
Researchers found that younger adolescents and those who reported more frequent anxiety or depression symptoms experienced their best next-day moods after getting more sleep the night before as compared to older youths and those with fewer symptoms. Credit: Dan DeLuca/Flickr

Sleep problems contribute to a number of mental health issues in adolescents, researchers say. But a lingering question is whether some teens need more—or less—sleep than others to be healthy and at their best.

A new UCLA study in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology finds that there are differences among teens in how much sleep they need to maintain the best daily mood. Few teens function well on less than seven hours of sleep a night; more than 11 hours is also not optimal for the vast majority of teens. Most teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep, the researchers found.

"This study contributes to the empirical basis for pediatric sleep recommendations," said the study's lead author, Andrew Fuligni, a professor in residence at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. "Rather than just say 'more sleep is better' and 'everyone should get more sleep,' we also want to know about individual needs for sleep."

To study the relationship between and next-day mood, researchers recruited 419 Los Angeles ninth- and 10th-graders. For 14 days, the teens completed three-page-long daily checklists before going to bed and answered questions about the previous night's sleep and the current day's mood. To encourage accurate, daily reporting, the teens folded and sealed each day's checklist, stamping the seal with an electronic time stamper. Teens were offered movie passes for properly completing their checklist tasks.

Researchers found that younger adolescents and those who reported more frequent anxiety or depression symptoms such as crying, worrying and fatigue, experienced their best next-day moods after getting more sleep the night before as compared to older youths and those with fewer symptoms. Researchers said younger adolescents and those who report clinically significant levels of anxiety and-or depression symptoms may need extra hours of sleep to reach peak functioning during the day.

Fuligni said there is a need for follow-up research that studies individual differences in sleep needs for different aspects of health and functioning. His previous work hints that sleep targets for optimal mental health and optimal academic performance may differ.

"As a society, we underestimate how much sleep kids—particularly teenagers—need," Fuligni said. "There's a lot of pressure on them to sleep less, and some youth are sacrificing for things like school and other activities."

Explore further: Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

More information: Andrew J. Fuligni et al. Individual Differences in Optimum Sleep for Daily Mood During Adolescence, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology (2017). DOI: 10.1080/15374416.2017.1357126

Related Stories

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

How much sleep do you really need?

July 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Health initiatives typically center on diet and fitness. But the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society state that getting enough sleep is just as important as eating right and exercising.

Kids' sleep guidelines spell out shut-eye guidance by age

June 13, 2016
Parental warning: Don't lose sleep over new guidelines on how much shut-eye your kids should be getting.

Adolescent sleep duration is associated with daytime mood

June 15, 2016
A new study of adolescents suggests that obtaining an insufficient amount of sleep increases variability in sadness, anger, energy and feelings of sleepiness. The study also showed that nightly fluctuations in sleep in healthy ...

Sacrificing sleep to study can lead to academic problems

August 21, 2012
Regardless of how much a high school student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep in order to study more than usual, he or she is more likely to have academic problems the following day. Because students ...

Lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance in teens

September 29, 2012
A new study suggests that increasing the amount of sleep that teenagers get could improve their insulin resistance and prevent the future onset of diabetes.

Recommended for you

Molecules in spit may be able to diagnose and predict length of concussions

November 20, 2017
Diagnosing a concussion can sometimes be a guessing game, but clues taken from small molecules in saliva may be able to help diagnose and predict the duration of concussions in children, according to Penn State College of ...

Breastfed babies are less likely to have eczema as teenagers, study shows

November 13, 2017
Babies whose mothers had received support to breastfeed exclusively for a sustained period from birth have a 54% lower risk of eczema at the age of 16, a new study led by researchers from King's College London, Harvard University, ...

Obesity during pregnancy may lead directly to fetal overgrowth, study suggests

November 13, 2017
Obesity during pregnancy—independent of its health consequences such as diabetes—may account for the higher risk of giving birth to an atypically large infant, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. ...

Working to reduce brain injury in newborns

November 10, 2017
Research-clinicians at Children's National Health System led the first study to identify a promising treatment to reduce or prevent brain injury in newborns who have suffered hypoxia-ischemia, a serious complication in which ...

Why do some kids die under dental anesthesia?

November 9, 2017
Anesthesiologists call for more research into child deaths caused by dental anesthesia in an article published online by the journal Pediatrics.

Probability calculations—even babies can master it

November 3, 2017
One important feature of the brain is its ability to make generalisations based on sparse data. By learning regularities in our environment it can manage to guide our actions. As adults, we have therefore a vague understanding ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.