The Importance of Sleep

As school starts up again and schedules get busier, sleep is an important consideration for people of all ages.  Sleep problems and disagreements about sleep can have negative impacts on individuals and families.  Family fights about going to bed, following evening routines and rules, and waking up and leaving the house on-time are common topics of arguments in families with children and teens. 

Many people frequently get less sleep than is recommended by medical professionals and researchers.  The common recommendations are that children 6-12 years of age get 9-12 hours of sleep per night and adolescents 13-18 years old get 8-10 hours per night.  If school starts at 8:00am for a 15-year-old student, and that student wants 15 minutes to talk to friends and visit her locker after a 30-minute ride to school, she needs to leave home at 7:15am.  If the same student needs 30 minutes to get ready in the morning, in order to get 8-10 hours of sleep, she would need to go to bed at 8:45-10:45pm.  That sounds very early to many high school students.

Not sleeping enough can have negative impacts on attention, memory, decision-making, and processing speed.  Insufficient sleep makes it is harder to manage emotions and their expression, which can lead to problematic behaviors.  It can also impact physical health, including making it harder to maintain a healthy weight or successfully lose weight.  Many chronic health conditions are correlated with sleep quantity and quality, with sleep deficiency contributing to the duration and severity of the chronic health condition and many health problems making it harder to sleep.  Accidents, including car accidents, and injuries may be more likely to occur when someone has not been getting enough sleep or is not getting high-quality sleep.

Sleep disturbance is a common consequence of emotional distress and factor in experience and expression of distress.  In fact, sleep changes and disturbances are a common component of the diagnostic criteria for psychological disorders.  For example, sleep is mentioned in the diagnostic criteria for several anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, mood disorders, and trauma-related disorders.  

Given the many risks associated with sleep problems, if you (or any of your family members) are having difficulty with sleep quality or quantity, concerted efforts to improve sleep habits/patterns are strongly encouraged. To assist with the change process, it may be useful to read the sleep resources listed below.  

Resources About Sleep


Joyce Matthews-Rurak, Psy.D.

Licensed Clinical Psychologist