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Healthy Living

Here's What Happens When Teens Don't Get Enough Sleep

Over 50 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds sleep seven hours or fewer each night.

Being a teenager is hard, but being a sleep-deprived teenager is even more difficult, according to sleep expert Els van der Helm and clinical sleep psychologist Ellie McGlinchey.

In the HuffPost Rise video above, van der Helm detailed some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation in teens. They’re no joke: A lack of Zs can lead to difficulty staying focused and a harder time regulating emotions.

“When a teenager is sleep-deprived, they’re not equipped to deal with adolescence,” van der Helm said.

Teenagers should get between eight and 10 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But a 2014 survey found that 58 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds sleep seven hours or fewer each night.

“American teens are getting far less than the nine hours of sleep that is recommended, because there’s a lot of pressures on them as they’re developing,” McGlinchey said. “They’re not functioning at their optimal level physically, mentally, cognitively, academically.”

The prefrontal cortex in a teenager’s brain is still developing, making it already difficult to regulate their emotions. But being sleep deprived, according to van der Helm, adds insult to injury.

“So the effect is that you’ll just lash out, respond immediately, impulsively and very emotionally,” van der Helm said.

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of sleep deprivation, McGlinchey said, as many teens look “normal, happy, healthy.” But, she added, “they may not be functioning at the level they could if they were fully rested.”

Watch the video above to learn more about sleep deprivation in teens.

This video was produced by Rebecca Halperin and Katrina Norvell.

Kids Sleep Guide