“My teenager sleeps all weekend”… Perhaps they are just catching up on sleep!

23 Apr “My teenager sleeps all weekend”… Perhaps they are just catching up on sleep!

Galland et al. recently conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis on paediatric publications which used actigraphy, a movement sensor not all that dissimilar to the smart devices currently commonly worn to measure exercise, heart rate and the like.  While we generally know that the circadian rhythms and sleep needs change as we age, this change is particularly rapid in our children. This study combines the actigraphy (objective) literature relating to our children’s sleep activity.

There is often discussion around school start times, with the argument being the current school hours are not aligned with teenager’s sleep patterns or sleep needs. The results of this study, published in the Journal of Sleep do show the difference in sleep patterns as children age.

Sleep onset tends to get later as children age. With 15-18 year olds going to bed later than 9-11 year olds. Not that this is surprising, most parents will tell you this. What is interesting is that on weekends, when presumably children are allowed to wake naturally there is an increase in the total sleep time. This increase also increases as children age, meaning that 15-18 year olds are sleeping a lot more on weekends than they are on weekdays. They are also going to be later on weekends. They go to bed around and hour later on weekends, and sleep in about two hours later than they do during the week, getting almost an extra hour of sleep each night on a weekend. This may be worth consideration during the discussion of optimal school start and finish times.


Barbara C Galland, Michelle A Short, Philip Terrill, Gabrielle Rigney, Jillian J Haszard, Scott Coussens, Mistral Foster-Owens, Sarah N Biggs; Establishing normal values for pediatric nighttime sleep measured by actigraphy: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Sleep, Volume 41, Issue 4, 1 April 2018, zsy017, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsy017