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Teenagers Need More Sleep

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“Almost all high school and college students do not get enough sleep,” said Dr. William C. Dement, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Stanford University. “They are at risk for a number of serious consequences, including poor performance at school, increased incidence of automobile accidents, increased moodiness, and increased use of stimulants and alcohol.” It is no secret that the majority of teenagers are not getting the full amount of sleep that they need every night in order to have a more alert brain the next day. The truth is, there is not enough time in the day for a student to go to school, do homework, participate in extracurricular activities, sleep for at least nine hours and have free time to themselves.

According to Nationwide Children’s hospital, teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 should be sleeping for at least nine hours every night. The studies show that after a teen hits puberty, they go to sleep an average of two hours later than they did before.

A lack in the total amount of sleep a teenager needs can have many bad effects on them the next day. First of all, a lack of sleep can lead to a downfall in the child’s academic performance and his ability to comprehend and process the new information taught to them at school everyday.

Drowsiness from a lack of sleep can also endanger teenagers when they are driving. Many students that are 16 years old and older drive themselves to and from school everyday. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepiness at the wheel leads to more than 100,000 car crashes per year.  If students are running on an average of seven hours of sleep, it can increase the risk of them falling asleep at the wheel. “If you’re familiar with the effects of alcohol and what can happen when you’re impaired to drive with alcohol,” said Kevin Bohnsack, a family medicine physician in the Ann Arbor area. “If you are awake for approximately 18 hours with no sleep, it is close to the level of a lack of performance as if you had a blood alcohol content of approximately eight percent.”

The danger of developing sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea also increases as the amount of sleep decreases. Insomnia is a disorder in which someone develops a habit of not sleeping enough and the inability to fall asleep. Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes someone to be prone to fall asleep in certain environments. Finally, sleep apnea causes temporary periods of time without breathing during sleep. Along with these sleep disorders, abnormal moods such as feeling worried, depressed or nervous can occur. Exercise has actually been found to combat these sleep disorders, especially insomnia, because it tires out the body, forcing it to fall asleep eventually.

Olivia Hervey, a freshman at Gabriel Richard High School, plays club volleyball and practices from 8 to 9:30 p.m. twice a week. Hervey claims that being tired affects her mood a lot when she is playing: “I get really down and upset after a while if I’m really tired.”

Many sport practices run at times in which a student cannot help but fall asleep late or wake up very early. School sports already demand a lot of time from student athletes, making it harder for them to finish their homework and priorities, but many practice times for sports such as water polo and volleyball cause students to lose sleep and have a downfall in their overall performance.

“I definitely feel like it’s harder for me [being tired]. I have ADHD so that makes it hard for me to begin with, but when I’m tired, it makes it even harder. I don’t perform very well in practice when I’m really tired and in games,” said Janie Burns, a junior at Community High who currently plays for Pioneer Women’s Water Polo. Burns’s practices are from 6 to 7 a.m. four days a week and from 4 to 6:15 p.m. five days a week. Burns finds the practices demanding and sometimes finds that it can be very difficult to balance her school schedule and homework with her water polo schedule.

Although practice times for sports can potentially lower the quality and quantity of sleep, many athletes discover that they perform better academically when they are in season. “I’m productive because I have to be, or else I can’t play,” Hervey said.

Burns admits that she struggles with procrastination sometimes, but having a tighter schedule during water polo helps her to be more efficient. “I think I perform better academically during season because I have less free time and it motivates me to get things done because I don’t have enough time,” Burns said.

For anyone trying to have a better night of sleep, the best solution is to have a schedule that balances school and/or work, extra curricular activities and sports, and sets aside a specific amount of free time. Sleep should be just as high of a priority as homework and school in the schedule, because it is just as important to learning and good grades as finishing a last minute assignment late at night. Sleeping for just an extra hour per night can make an incredible difference in the performance of athletes and non-athletes as well.

Doctor Bohnsack suggests to not exercise less than two hours prior to going to bed. Due to the increased amount of endorphins from working out, the body will be very energized and this will prevent a restful sleep. “There are certain aspects to your sleeping environment that are important to think about,” Bohnsack said. “You should be in a dark room. Generally the room should not be hot; if anything,it can be on the cooler side. It helps to have a routine prior to going to bed. If you typically brush your teeth and change into your sleeping clothes, you should always follow that as a routine regimen. You should generally fall asleep at the same time every night, so one night going to bed at nine o’clock and another going to bed at 1:30 is going to mess up your sleep schedule.”

Losing precious sleep can affect the overall performance of athletes and anyone in general. Bohnsack provides a visual representation for sleep loss: “Treat sleep like a bank. When you have a day where you don’t sleep as much, you’re taking the amount of sleep that you really need out of the bank, so you need to fill that back up again with better and more sleep.” Sleep is just as vital to the restoration and nourishment of the body as food. Just as meal time is set aside in a daily schedule, time for sleeping should be as well.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Teenagers Need More Sleep”

  1. Jessica on September 14th, 2015 5:04 pm

    Great article, but the reason we dont get any sleep is because school is trying to prepare us for the real world of jobs; having to wake up early every morning and barely having any time to ourselves.

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