HBSC home




Publications: Data Visualisations

Sleep difficulties

Insufficient sleep, inadequate sleep quality and irregular sleep patterns during adolescence are associated with daytime tiredness, risk taking behaviours, negative moods, stimulant use, poor academic performance and increased risks from unintentional injuries. Lack of sufficient sleep during this critical developmental stage has also been linked to poor self-rated health and depression.

Several factors, including behavioural, socio-cultural and environmental changes, contribute to sleep difficulties during adolescence. Factors known to affect young people often occur simultaneously and include:

  • Changing body clock - the body naturally shifts its wake/sleep cycle during adolescence. Melatonin, the hormone which induces sleep, doesn’t peak in production until later at night

  • Harmful screentime - light tells the brain that it should remain alert. Spending a lot of time watching television in the evening or looking at digital screens can inhibit the production of melatonin and prevent good quality sleep

  • New afterschool scheduling - homework, sports, other extra-curricular activities, part-time work, and social and leisure commitments may further contribute to disrupted bedtimes


Suggestions for improving sleep quality and length of sleep include:

  • Reviewing sleep environment for factors that reduce sleep quality such as excess light, sources of noise or an uncomfortable mattress.

  • Limiting screen time in the evening and especially before going to bed.

  • Trying relaxation techniques such as meditation.

  • Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet and avoiding coffee, tea, caffeinated soft drinks and chocolate after your evening meal.

  • Avoiding substances like tobacco, alcohol and cannabis which are known to reduce sleep quality and consistency.

Related publications

  • Sleep deprivation in adolescents: correlations with health complaints and health-related quality of life (Sleep Medicine)

  • Trends in self‐reported sleep problems, tiredness and related school performance among Finnish adolescents from 1984 to 2011 (Journal of Sleep Research)

  • High caffeine intake in adolescents: associations with difficulty sleeping and feeling tired in the morning (Journal of Adolescent Health)

  • Computer use, sleep duration and health symptoms: a cross-sectional study of 15-year olds in three countries (International journal of public health)

  • Total Sleep Time Severely Drops during Adolescence (PLoS ONE)