Blame Teens' Sleep Deprivation On Nature, Nurture And School: Student Views

By on June 6, 2011

What teen can honestly say that they get enough sleep? I can’t.

I know for a fact that I go to bed earlier than most of my friends, but I wake up feeling tired. On average, I probably get a solid six to seven hours of sleep, considerably more than most of my fellow high-schoolers.

Most teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that teens need about 8½ to 9 hours of sleep each night to function properly, while a recent NPR report said that teens need as much as 9¼ hours of sleep. One study found that only 15 percent of teens actually got at least 8½ hours of sleep on a school night.

What is it that keeps us up? Often it’s homework; especially a procrastinated project. Other culprits tend to be Facebook or Skype. Of course, this probably makes most adults claim that it’s teenagers’ fault they aren’t getting enough sleep.

But, while distractions are part of the problem, biology is also to blame. Sleep patterns shift in adolescence so most teens, even if they wanted to, can’t fall asleep before 11 p.m. This is because the chemical that makes people sleepy, melatonin, is released later as teens get older.

Sleep is essential to a teenager’s well-being. Not only can a lack of sleep hurt grades and athletic performances, but sleepiness can cause accidents. More than 100,000 car crashes a year are related to drowsiness or falling asleep at the wheel. Inadequate sleep can also cause sickness, weight gain, and increased stress, all huge issues for teenagers.

One of the biggest instigators of teen sleepiness is how early they need to arise. High school start times are generally very early, automatically putting school at odds with a teen’s sleep cycles.

Early start times, combined with teens’ late bedtimes, cause teens to acquire sleep deficits. According to NPR, these sleep deficits can be as much as five to 10 hours by the end of the week. When teens try to compensate by sleeping in on weekends, their sleep schedules become even more disrupted. Also, many teens stay up even later on the weekend, causing them to become even more sleep-deprived.

So, can anything be done about the sleepiness hitting the teenage population? A later start time might be a good idea; teens might not go to bed earlier, but they will sleep later.

However, a later start time means a later release time, which can be problematic for a lot of teenagers who work directly after school. They would have to start work later, end work later, and thus go to bed later. which would simply perpetuate their lack of sleep. But, for teens who don’t work, later start times might be the best option if schools want kids to start waking up.

Source: Divya Raj, Cleveland

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