You Are At: AllSands Home > Kids > Teenagers > Delayed sleep phase syndrome in adolescence
Many parents complain that their teens stay up too late at night and wake too late in the morning. In the past, psychologists responded to such inquiries with remarks that it was just adolescent rebellion. It was thought that teens' sleep patterns were just a manifestation of their desires to become independent from parents. But is that it? Recent research suggests that there are biological reasons for teens' sleep preferences.

It appears that with adolescence are changes in the parts of the brain that govern the sleep/wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm refers to the biological clock within us; it runs on approximately a 24 hour cycle and appears to be reset each day by exposure to sunlight. In teens, the biological clock shifts so that if teens were allowed to create their own sleep and wake cycle, they would go to sleep at about 1 am and wake at about 10 am. But why does the biological clock shift in adolescence? Researchers aren't sure, but they do know that teens also need more sleep than children or adults.

Teens need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night. The increased need for sleep seems to be a function of puberty because hormones, the chemicals which cause all of the changes known as puberty, are released primarily at night. Unfortunately, most teens don't get the sleep they need and suffer sleep deprivation. Interestingly, many of the correlates of sleep deprivation are similar to those thought to be "typical" of puberty: irritability, moodiness, changes in school performance, and changes in motivation. Perhaps the characteristics that we associate with adolescence are really a function of sleep deprivation!