The importance of sleep for students

Jordynn Harris, Staff Writer

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Most teens prefer to sleep in on the weekend or stay asleep in the morning rather than getting up and going to school. They may often complain about not getting enough sleep and may end up being unfocused or dozing off during class. That’s mostly because most teenagers don’t get the 8-9 hours of sleep needed, according to the National Health Service. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children between 8 and 12 years old get between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per day and that teens get between 8 and 10.  Yet, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the average teen gets only seven hours of sleep.  A study by the National Sleep Foundation showed that just 15% of teens get a healthy amount of sleep.

For various reasons, sleep is often neglected by teenagers, making them frequently tired. With the modern world that teens live in, technology may be a primary obstacle between them and sleep. Whether it’s TV, video games, or cell phones, teenagers lack the sleep they need.  Early school start times and busy schedules also contribute to the problem.

But there is also a scientific factor.  There is a biological shift in the internal clock of an adolescent–a shift of about 2 hours, meaning a teenager who usually fell asleep at 9:00 pm would now fall asleep at 11:00 pm, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. 

Teens and Sleep

A lack of sleep can mean consequences for a teen. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it can “limit the ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems.” It can also negatively impact memory, contribute to acne, cause aggression or moodiness, lead to weight gain, and weaken the immune system.

Teens may try to combat these consequences by sleeping extra on the weekends.  However, studies shows that sleeping in on the weekends disrupts the internal clock even more. Instead, it’s better to “take planned naps, stay away from caffeine late in the day, and get a comfortable pillow or mattress” as stated by HealthLine.

Also using a device before isn’t a wise decision either.  “The blue light that your smart phone emits is not only bad for your vision, but it’s bad for your brain too,” reports the the Cleveland Clinic. The light of a device disrupts the body’s natural production of melatonin, which regulates the body’s circadian rhythm (also known as sleep cycle or internal clock.)

Some sleep issues go beyond poor bedtime behaviors or bud schedules.  There are sleep disorders can that affect a teenager’s sleep. Insomnia, which is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, is very common among not only teens, but also many adults.  Obstructive sleep apnea “causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep,” said an article from the Mayo Clinic. Some signs of this are snoring, morning headaches, difficulty focusing in the morning, and waking up to a dry mouth or sore throat. For these sleep issues, teens should seek medical attention.

With the exception of teens who may have a sleep disorder, there a few strategies that parents or teens can use to help students get the sleep they need. The National Sleep Foundation recommends making sleep a priority by creating and then sticking to sleep and wake times, even on the weekends.  The NSF also notes that a bedtime routine can help signal the brain that it is time to sleep. This might include a bath or shower or reading. But a pre-sleep routine should not include electronics such as TV, phones, computers, or tablets.  They also recommend avoiding eating, drinking, or exercising an hour before bed. 

“Sleep is vital to your well-being, as important as the air you breathe, the water you drink and the food you eat,” says the NSF. “It can even help you to eat better and manage the stress of being a teen.”