Is Your Teen Tired All the Time?

Sleep deprivation shows up across a variety of diagnostic categories. Approximately 30% of adolescents between 13 and 25 suffer from a sleep disorder. When I ask teens how they’re feeling, they will frequently answer, “Tired.” One of the first questions I ask in a diagnostic interview is “Do you feel rested when you wake up in the morning?” A “no” answer is common for kids and adults. I drill down with more questions about sleep and sleep-related questions even though I may hear a “yes” answer to the “do you feel rested” question. I tell clients that sleep is a core mental health issue.


What if you have a teen with insomnia? I have a list of seventeen items addressing best practices for a good night’s sleep. Recent research by Orchard and others adapts CBT-I (insomnia) from the Sleeping Better program for adults. It includes  parent participation in the treatment.


It’s important to have a strategy for teens because evidence supports sleep disturbance as a predictor of future relapse in depression. Treatment for depression and anxiety alone tend to result in no significant improvement in adolescents’ sleep problems. Continued sleep problems means less resilience from day-to-day stress, more difficulty with attention and concentration in school, more difficulty with emotional control and disturbed peer and family relationships.


See my article in this blog on resetting sleep. It covers most of the items in my Best Strategies for Sleep list.


David Barnhart, EdD


Faith Orchard, Laura Pass, Chloe Chessell, Alice Moody, Jason Ellis, Shirley Reynolds. Adapting Brief CBT-I for Depressed Adolescents: A Case Illustration of the Sleeping Better Program, Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 2019.

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