Common Causes of Sleeplessness in Teenagers

| July 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sleeplessness, more commonly known as insomnia, is a condition that may affect persons of any age group, but more so is becoming a serious health burden in the teen aged group.

Insomnia is basically described as a condition that fulfils one of two criteria: either the inability to sleep, or difficulties with staying asleep. This condition can have far reaching consequences for teenagers, who without adequate sleep will more likely that not have their academic performance plummet, leading to a much harder adult life.( bad grades= low pay= depression). Sleeplessness itself can be classified as being of primary origin (occurring without obvious external influences), secondary (occurring as a result of some other factor) or as a co-morbidity (occurring independently along with another condition). In fact, a study conducted among US teens revealed that over 90% of teenagers routinely lose sleep at least once per week, due in part to frantic academic schedules or for the “ weekend binge”. With that in mind, it is a good place to start by identifying what are the possible triggers of sleeplessness in teenagers, so they may be addressed and corrected if the possibility exists. These may include:


Leading the list of offenders is the all-too- common stress factor. With the world being so competitive today, students may feel pressured to perform beyond their individual capabilities. The consequences of stress are many, but will result in loss of sleep and depression to name a few.


Worries on an impending examination the next day can have teenagers awake the entire night, actually dealing them a cruel hand to perform well. Lack of sleep impairs cognition and memory, and is a pivotal factor in success in school.


Depression can result in either of two extremes; too much sleep, or nowhere near enough. This is due in part to changes in the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, which either facilitate or prevent sleep. This will vary by individual, so there is no way to predict what your outcome will be.


While this may not immediately come to the front of the mind when brainstorming possible causes of sleeplessness in teenagers, the usage of medications; be it for studying, athletic performance or even recreational is on a massive increase among school aged children. These medications can either have a depressive (sleep inducing) effect, such as alcohol, or a stimulant effect (which is more common), such as caffeine, ginkgo biloba or even the notorious ecstasy. The use of any drug, either illicit or beneficial, should be weighed extensively against the possible outcomes. Stimulants will induce a false state of alertness (and cause insomnia).

Late night eating

Eating late at nights may be an unavoidable inconvenience for a genuine few, but for many teenagers, it is just another practice of laziness. It is a proven fact that the closer to your bed time you consume a meal, the more likely it is that you will have difficulty getting to sleep. Coupled with the fact that junk food, laden with fats and wasteful fast digesting carbohydrates, provide no real nutritional benefit (especially when taken at night), your digestion will also be delayed (with possible development of acid reflux down the line)

Bad sleep patterns

Although this may seem obvious, it actually is not. Many teenagers routinely get about 5 hours sleep on average, yet are not compelled to sleep. The cause of this is a change in the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which dictates when you awake, and when you sleep. Chronic use of stimulants or activities before bed, will keep pushing your sleep clock later in the night; a practice that kind of equates to constantly just pouring the bare minimum gas into your car.

Planned Insomnia

Somewhat tied in to poor sleeping patterns, this is the practice of worrying too much over getting to sleep or sleeping enough. This habit is found to be overcome with use of distractions, such as falling asleep while watching television, or sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings.

Hormonal changes

Although this factor is not fully understood, it does hold merit as a cause of sleeplessness. Generally, as humans age, the need for sleep decreases proportionately. This can justify to a degree the sleeplessness experienced by some teenagers, but it is not enough on its own to explain why your teenager is only getting 4 hours sleep nightly( when it should ideally be 7 at a minimum).

Peer pressure

Lastly, the influence of friends (bad or good) can extend to many facets of everyday life. Late night partying, studying, or even just hanging out with no real purpose will crucify your sleep. It is important to prioritize things in your life, sleep being one of them.

The consequences of poor sleeping habits, which may not be immediately obvious, will take its toll on you. Now that you are aware of some of the most common sleep stealers, do you best to avoid potholes that will impair your quality of life, and future.

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Category: Sleep Disorders

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