Sleep Deprivation: The Teenage Nightmare

Bring Your Own Snooze


Students constantly face the never-ending problem of sleep deprivation.

By Taylor Rohleen, Satellite High School

“Teenagers are practically nocturnal. They can live without sleep,” opines Enjolie Vadella, 11. Vadella, like many other students, faces each day with a veil of sleep deprivation over her head.

As high schools, day after day, reach closer to the end of the year, the number of sleepy scholars rises exponentially. This is often because students feel they must stay up to accomplish the tasks of the day; however, as sleep deprivation develops, productivity typically decreases, while the workload only increases.

Although a heavy workload can be frightening, the effects of sleep deprivation prove worse: Less productivity is perhaps the least faint consequence, considering mental illness and drowsy-driving accidents are other symptoms which carry serious repercussions. Considering not only these detrimental effects, but also a 2006 National Sleep Foundation reporting that over 87% of US high schoolers do not rest for the advocated 8-10 hours per night, sleep deprivation ought to be brought to the public’s attention.

Despite course loads, teenagers do have another apt justification for this habit: Their circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, is set later than their adult counterparts; therefore, falling asleep before 11 P.M. is a demanding task.

This matter is further complicated by today’s high-tech nature. Sophomore Christina Stephens explains it simply. “Because of technology, [students] can’t sleep.” Technological devices — possessing a combination of blue lights and unlimited information — lead to sensory overload and a lack of melatonin production, the hormone that regulates the body’s circadian rhythm.

While Stephens admits to technology’s distracting abilities, she, along with other students, also has insomnia which reduces both the quality and amount of her sleep. Sleeping a mere 5 hours a night, Stephens often never reaches the critical REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. This stage aids in the long-term storage of memory, regulates the sleep cycle sequence, and even prevents seizures. For students, retaining course material is imperative for academic success; plus, future health is indispensable. A lack of sleep inhibits both of them.

The fact of the matter is that progressively more students are in Stephens’s situation, whether their circadian rhythm is far offset, or their quality of sleep is of little value. In her words, “I may be getting a certain number of hours [of sleep], but I don’t feel awake.”

In order to yield all the benefits of a good night’s rest, Elizabeth Bowman, 10, relies on a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to prevent sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing patterns are intermittent, and takes Seriphos, an adaptogenic supplement which aids her quality of sleep. If Bowman doesn’t adhere to her regimen, she runs out of the energy necessary to power through her course load, daily Space Coast Crew practices, and other extracurriculars. Despite all the loops Bowman has to jump through to obtain quality slumber, she is lucky in the sense that she does, in fact, sleep. A majority of youth do not put aside the hours for this necessity, which is why Stanford University has recognized sleep deprivation as an “epidemic.” Freshman Noah Hammond concurs with Stanford. “You can tell that there’s a lot of people complaining how they don’t want to go to school, because they’re so tired.”

If students are this exhausted and overworked, the true question is thus: Should schools modify their start times to accommodate students?

Most students would say no. Hammond believes “It’s the child’s responsibility, not the schools’,” whereas Bowman agrees with Hammond but for different reasons: To her, “Satellite [High School] already has adjusted.” Bowman worries that if the start time was extended any further, “our day would disappear; there wouldn’t be anything other than school.”

Despite how personal opinion may overrule sleep’s importance, it is imperative to consider its consequences in relativity to what can be accomplished in those precious hours. It will cumulatively affect students the end of school looms nearer, which is why now is a prime time to evaluate sleep habits before the mass of sleep debt becomes irreparable.

Read the original story here.