Why are sleep problems so common in teenagers and young adults?

Sleep in secondary school children and young adults can easily become disturbed with knock-on effects on mood, ability to concentrate and anxiety. Interestingly, the natural body clock of teenagers means that they do better staying up late and sleeping in. Some very forward-thinking schools have taken this research on board and decided to start their lessons later. For most young people however, getting up in time for school or college is a reality they have to face and so getting into bed in time to get enough sleep is the real challenge. Most approaches discuss practical steps (such as reducing screen time before bed) as well as ways of dealing with the thoughts and worries that tend to keep us awake.

Night-time is often when worries surface and it can be difficult to relax and get to sleep. If this is part of the problem, have a look at our anxiety resources and see the link on the Mind website below.

Research also confirms the importance of getting enough exercise and daylight (ten minutes a day is enough and it doesn’t have to be sunny!) to keep your body clock and sleep hormones regulated.

Sleeping tablets are generally not used in children or even young adults as they are only a short-term solution and can be rapidly addictive.

Podcasts to help you feel sleepy

Practical advice and ideas

Top Tip

Lying awake with thoughts going round your head? Try this: Write down everything on a piece of paper without worrying about how you’re writing it. You don’t need to re-read it, it’s just to get the thoughts out. If the thoughts are not helpful, scrunch up the paper and chuck it in the bin.


  • Calm is an App with some free meditations that can help promote good sleep. If you find meditation is too tricky, Calm also offer sleep stories (read by people with soothing voices!) and relaxing soundtracks to fall asleep to.
  • Sleepstation and Sleepio AppsThese are Sleep Apps which analyse your sleep problem once you’ve answered some questions about your sleep and then personalise the programme they suggest for you based partly on better sleep habits and also on combatting negative thought cycles about sleep. Sleepio has been commissioned by the NHS and is available for free in many parts of the UK including SouthWest UK (enrol by using your postcode) Sleep Station can often be prescribed by your GP.
  • Headspace App is a popular meditation App which is free for the first ten sessions, so you can see if it’s suitable. Headspace has some special programmes including one on sleep.
  • Sleepcycle is a free App that analyses your sleep.