There’s a Reason Your Teen Is Tired All The Time—and You’re Not Going to Like It

Updated: Feb. 14, 2017

Is your teen catching up on social media instead Of catching zzz's?


It’s normal for teens to want to stay connected to friends and social circles, but in the middle of the night? Apparently, yes. The January 2017 Journal of Youth Studies recently published new research indicating that one in five teens between the ages of 12 to 15 years old regularly wake during the night to partake in some form of social media. Not surprisingly the research also indicated that these social night owls are three times more likely than their friends to feel tired at school and that girls are more likely than boys to check in.

The blue light produced by cell phones, tablets, and computers signal the brain to stay awake by suppressing the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls our circadian rhythm or sleep cycle. Compound that with the brain stimulation created from checking “likes” on Instagram and it’s easy to see why a teen might be up all night. A 2016 study in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science noted the same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are activated when teens see large numbers of “likes” on their posts or that of their peers.

Besides not catching enough zzz’s, by interrupting their sleep cycle, teens may never fully engage in REM sleep, the deepest stage of sleep that may be responsible for brain development and learning.

Considering about 72 percent of children from ages 6 to 17 years old sleep with some form of electronic media in their bedrooms, parents need to set boundaries sooner rather than later.

“Providing access to devices and thus to social media is a privilege that children can earn and also lose,” Janie Feldman, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in New Jersey who treats sleep disorders, reminds parents that “temporarily removing privileges can have important impact so long as the means of earning back the privilege is clear. Teens and parents should discuss and agree upon terms of use, timing, and access. Teenagers are most cooperative when they have a ‘buy in’ to the rules, so including them in defining rules makes for very effective parenting.”

Besides setting boundaries, setting the tone for a restful night’s sleep can also help ensure teens are sleeping through the night. Here are some ways to improve your family’s sleep habits.

Although more research needs to be done on the various affects of social media on teens, parents should consider limiting access during the night so their budding social butterfly won’t turn in to a grumpy bear in the morning.