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Teenager's Trouble Sleeping

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Teenager's Trouble Sleeping

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Question: "My 16 y. old daughter is having trouble falling asleep or is waking up in the middle of the night. Can I do something about it ?"




We all require a certain amount of sleep to function well. On average most teenagers need just over 9 hours of sleep each night.  If your teen is having difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep consider working with your teen on their sleep problems.


Barriers to sleep:


 Have a discussion with her/him about the importance of sleep, find out if stress is contributing, if too much late time screen time or socialising is a barrier, if medications are contributing and remember be aware that there is a physiological change in their sleep patterns during adolescence. 


The very brain chemical that makes one feel sleepy — a hormone called melatonin — is released later and later in the evening as teens get older.  This can result in their sleep pattern altering by one to two hours a night, hence they just aren’t tired at the time they used to be. Teens can’t change this but they can make sure night activities are calming to counteract their already heightened alertness.


Ways to help your teen sleep better:


To help your teen sleep better you could consider talking to them about the following:


  • Establish a regular bedtime routine and stick with it.  If they do sleep in on weekends try to keep it to one hour.
  • Power down. Have teens unplug from electronics one hour before bedtime. You could consider creating a quiet, calm evening routine in your home for the entire family.
  • Encourage your teen to wind down their brain. Take a warm bath, listen to soft music     or do yoga before bedtime.
  • Create the right sleeping environment. Generally people sleep best in a cool, dark room.  If your teen needs to block out noise in their bedroom consider earplugs or white noise from a fan or machine.
  • Choose  what one consumes post lunch wisely, encourage your teen to avoid caffeine and sugar products such as coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and chocolate. 
  • Regular exercise is important. Ideally, exercise is best done early in the day as this has the most positive impact on sleep. 

  • Keep naps to 20 minutes and at early afternoon.

When your teen gets up in the morning, they could try getting into bright light as soon as possible as this signals the brain to wake up. They could have breakfast in front of a window or outside. 

When to seek more help


While it’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping, it is not normal if this persists. If sleeping difficulties do persist, and they are affecting your teen’s wellbeing, schoolwork, relationships or mental health, it might be time to seek help. 


A GP, school counsellor or psychologist would be a place to start.


Let’s be honest, this is a long list of things to get them on board with.  Be realistic about how you approach this- problem solve with your teen to come up with strategies that will work for them.


 Remember, small changes can make a big difference.                                                                                                         

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