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For teens

Sleep is important!

Sleep and your health

Not getting enough sleep can lead to hormonal changes that increase appetite and food intake, which may lead to increased body weight in teens and young adults. Sleeping too little can also lead to drowsy driving, which is a major cause of motor vehicle crashes.

Sleep and school

Sleeping too little can affect your grades. For instance, several studies have shown that teens with later bedtimes and less sleep have poorer grades in middle and high school. Sleeping too little can also affect your ability to concentrate. Research shows that children who sleep too little are more likely to get ADHD-like symptoms.

Sleep and sports

Poor sleep can affect athletic performance. One study found that college basketball players who increased their nightly sleep from 6.6 to 8.5 hours experienced improvements in sprint time and shooting. Another study found that competitive tennis players experience a decrease in serving accuracy if they are relatively sleep deprived.

How much sleep should I be getting?

The amount of sleep a person needs can vary quite a bit from person to person. However, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following:

Age Recommended Sleep Time
Four to 12 months 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
One to two years 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
Three to five years 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
Six to 12 years Nine to 12 hours
13 to 18 years Eight to 10 hours
18 years and older Seven or more hours


Healthy sleep habits

  • Allow adequate time for sleep (see above).
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake time throughout the week—if you need to sleep in on weekends, then you are not getting enough sleep during the week!
  • Limit light exposure before bed, including light from television, video games, computers and mobile devices.
  • Don’t nap too late in the afternoon.
  • Avoid physical activity, large meals, and social activity for at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Maintain a cool (less than 23oC), dark, quiet room for sleeping.
  • Keep objects associated with wakefulness (e.g., homework, mobile devices, televisions, video games, computers) outside of the sleep environment.
  • Avoid caffeine, energy drinks, chocolate, alcohol and nicotine in the four hours before bedtime.

Careers in sleep medicine

Sleep physician

Sleep physicians are medical doctors who take care of patients with sleep complaints. They order tests, interpret tests results, make diagnoses and develop treatment plans. Sleep physicians work in hospitals, universities or stand-alone clinics. They typically have a bachelor’s degree, followed by a medical degree (MD), followed by a specialty residency in family medicine, internal medicine, otolaryngology, pediatrics, psychiatry, or neurology, followed by fellowship training in sleep medicine.

Sleep scientist

Sleep scientists seek to understand how and why we sleep, determine the causes and consequences of poor sleep and sleep disorders, and develop new treatments for sleep disorders. Sleep scientists work in universities, hospitals, medical research institutions or private companies by developing new tools for diagnosing and treating sleep problems. Sleep scientists typically have a bachelor’s degree, followed by a doctorate (MD or PhD), followed by a postdoctoral fellowship. Sleep scientists have backgrounds in fields as diverse as neuroscience, physiology, psychology, pharmacology, genetics, epidemiology, endocrinology, biochemistry and molecular biology.

Behavioral sleep medicine specialist

Behavioral sleep medicine specialists seek to diagnose and treat poor sleep and sleep disorders like insomnia and nightmares by addressing the behavioural and psychological factors that interfere with sleep. They work in universities, hospitals or stand-alone clinics. Sleep psychologists typically have a bachelor’s degree, followed by a PhD in psychology, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship.

Dental sleep medicine specialist

Dental sleep medicine specialists treat a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea using specialized mouth guards or jaw surgery. They work in universities, hospitals or private clinics. Dental sleep medicine specialists typically have a bachelor’s degree, followed by a dental degree (DDS or DMD), followed by a fellowship in dental sleep medicine.

Sleep technologist

Sleep technologists set up and monitor patients during overnight or daytime sleep studies, and may also set patients up for at-home sleep studies. They also assist with processing data from these studies, and may help patients using CPAP therapy, a treatment for sleep apnea. Sleep technologists work at sleep disorders centres in hospitals or stand-alone clinics. Sleep technologists complete a formal certificate training program and write an examination to become a registered polysomnographic technologist.

Want to learn more?

Are you an Ontario elementary, middle or high school student? Do you have a question about sleep or circadian rhythms? Submit it below. Every month, we will post answers to the most frequently asked questions on our website.

Are you an Ontario high school student interested in learning more about sleep and circadian rhythms research first-hand? We are accepting applications for volunteer research internships during the summer and school year.

Are you an Ontario high school teacher interested in arranging one or more in-school lectures or workshops on sleep and circadian rhythms? If so, then contact the study coordinator directly. Potential topics that might be covered include: how we sleep, why we sleep and what happens when we sleep; the importance of sleep to brain health; healthy sleep habits; and careers in sleep medicine.

Contact information

Email: ontariosleephealthstudy@sunnybrook.ca
Telephone: 416-480-5143
Address: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Ave., AB 211, Toronto, ON M4N 3M5