Sleep Deprivation

By Dakota Gillespie

“He slept half the day away!” and “She’s up all night!” These are some common phrases that parents use when discussing their teenagers’ sleep patterns. Most parents are concerned about the amount of sleep their children are getting each night or not getting, as the case may be.

Teenagers often have a difficult time trying to go to sleep early, not strictly because they’re so active, but due to the restrictions set forth by their body. This is caused by tampering with the body’s “internal clock” by waking up for school so early after not having received the required amount of sleep.

As students get older their circadian rhythms change, thus preventing teenagers from becoming tired until the late morning hours. The circadian rhythm, or in a simpler term “body clock,” keeps the body on its own little schedule. This is what causes a person to wake up or fall asleep when he or she does.

Without the necessary amount of sleep, students are at a higher risk of automobile accidents, depression, and a decrease in grade excellence.

According to NBCNews.com, “Report after report shows it — sleepy drivers cause car crashes. In the new study, researchers at The George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia suggest that a long-term lack of sleep may not only cause immediate drowsiness at the wheel, but may affect a young driver’s judgment over time.”

This is a prime example of why schools should take the amount of sleep their students are receiving into serious consideration! Also from NBCNews.com, “Those who reported sleeping six or fewer hours per night had an increased risk for crash compared with those who reported sleeping more than six hours.”

According to CNN.com, “Daytime sleepiness appears to be the new normal for adolescents. More than half of the 262 high school seniors who participated in the study were ‘excessively sleepy,’ according to a commonly used scale that gauges how likely a person is to doze off during everyday activities such as reading, watching TV, or sitting in a traffic jam.”

But, by allowing an extra hour of sleep students can prevent themselves from becoming a victim of a sleep-caused accidents.

Also, when students don’t receive enough sleep they become depressed, have more frequent mood swings, and a larger intake of calories which has the potential of leading to obesity.

According to CNN.com, “The rate of depression among the students was very high. Thirty percent of the teens had strong symptoms of depression, while an additional 32 percent had some depression symptoms, according to the study, which was presented today in San Antonio at SLEEP 2010, an annual meeting of sleep researchers.”

Anahad O’Connor, an author for NYTimes.com says, “Some experts have theorized that in a sleep-deprived state, people eat more food simply to make up for all the calories they expend as they burn the midnight oil. But the new study showed that the changes in brain activity were evident even when the subjects were fed extra food and not experiencing any increased sensations in hunger.”

Jason Koebler an author for the USNews.com says, “In a controlled lab test, 16 healthy adults were limited to just five hours of sleep over the course of five days—participants gained, on average, nearly 2 pounds and tended to eat meals later than expected. Surprisingly, participants burned more calories while sleep deprived, but ate more to make up for that fact.”

According to MySplus.com, “The effect of lost sleep is similar to being drunk. Even moderate sleep deprivation can lead to cognitive and motor-skill impairments similar to—or even worse than—being legally drunk.”

According to Harvard.edu, “Studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. When the subjects resumed normal sleep, they reported a dramatic improvement in mood.”

As if depression and possible obesity weren’t bad enough, people that get little sleep also have higher death rates at younger ages. According to Healthland.time.com, “Given that past research has shown that short sleepers (and unusually long sleepers) die younger than people who get 6.5 to 7.5 hours per night, a new Penn State study looked at the impact of insomnia on mortality. The consequences could be dire: the study of 1,741 men and women in Pennsylvania found that insomniac men who slept less than 6 hours per day were four times more likely to die than those who got a full night’s rest.”

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When questioned about their preferences, students at Brook Hill such as Ben Thomas, Michael Kirkpatrick, and Pasha Zapolskyy, responded in a way that was very similar to what has been found in the studies mentioned above. “I believe that school should start later in the day so that students can not only get to school safer and happier, but also take in more information,” one of the students said.

At least some of the sleep-deprivation problem could be easily resolved by postponing the official start time of schools for a few hours, allowing longer breaks between classes.

Another idea that might help reduce this deprivation is allowing the students to have drinks that may contain caffeine, carbonation, or simply allowing them to have coffee.

This change in schedule would have no negative effects on most schools’ athletic programs, due to the fact that most schools have lighting in their complexes so that their fields and courts are ready for use.

With the help of schools all over the world, we can reduce the chances of teenagers becoming victim of some of these problems (i.e., automobile accidents, decrease in grade excellence, and depression) by changing or postponing the official start time by one hour at the very least.

If schools won’t set back the start time, then perhaps they might cut down on the amount of information that is required of the students to intake, and the amount of homework that is to be done each night.

We might even be able to  alleviate some of the issue by bringing back the nap times we had in kindergarten. Most people think that nap time during school would be silly, but this may be the resolution to the deprivation of sleep that students suffer from.

Now that you have seen concrete evidence and the scientific studies held by many universities throughout the world, take into consideration the health of millions of students. We can save their lives by encouraging more sleep and by setting back the start time of schools everywhere to match up with most students’ circadian rhythms.

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