Why you should take sleep more seriously


As teenagers, most of us struggle to balance a good academic record, a social life, and enough sleep. Study after study suggests, however, that American teenagersas well as teens worldwidefail to see a good amount of shut-eye as a high priority out of the list.


According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), only 15 percent of American teens (ages 14-17) reported sleeping eight and a half hours on school nights, a safe number within the recommended eight to ten hours for that age group. This leaves the majority of teens in a sleep deficit. One Milton sophomore, Sam Gordon, even says, “I get, like, no sleep.”


Saying that sleep is important would be an understatement. Not only does a lack of sleep leave you feeling sluggish and ill-equipped for the day, not getting enough sleep can also hinder your “ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems,” according to the NSF. Sleep deprivation is also a suspect behind acne, aggressive behavior, mood swings and even overeating.


Considering the release of the human growth hormone, as well as other hormones essential to development, are increased during sleep, not sleeping enough can be detrimental to development and cause malfunction of the endocrine systema system of glands, such as the pituitary gland, that release hormones to regulate growth, sexual function, mood, and several other factors. Since the glucose-regulating insulin is also a hormone, sleep deprivation has also been known to increase the risk for diabetes.


So what’s the reason behind this epidemic of teenage sleep deprivation? “I usually get seven and a half hours of sleep on weeknights,” says sophomore Ekta Anand. “Schoolwork and sports keep me up.” Besides the time these tasks take up, they may also cause stress, which is known to impair sleep as well.


Another feasible culprit is school start times. The CDC states that the average start time for high schools across the U.S. is approximately 8:03 a.m.; less than 20 percent of American high schools begin class at 8:30 or later. To catch buses or squeeze in extra study time, high school students may have to get up significantly earlier than the starting bell. Combined with the average teen bedtime of 11 p.m. or later, this is a recipe for sleep deprivation.


The teenage tendency to stay up at night and wake up later in the morning isn’t just habitit’s biological. For this reason, some politicians have even taken steps to postpone school start times. “We must encourage schools to push back their start times to at least 8:30 a.m. — a schedule more in tune with adolescents’ biological sleep and wake patterns and more closely resembling the adult work day,” said California congresswoman Zoe Logfren in April of 1999.


While it may take a miracle to reorganize school start and end times, teens can certainly get more sleep in other ways. For instance, naps can be effective in recharging energy, provided they’re not too long or too close to bedtime, as that can throw off your natural sleep-wake cycle, called a circadian rhythm.


The NSF also suggests cutting out caffeine late in the day, as well as avoiding nicotine and alcohol. Creating a consistent bedtime routine could also help. “If you do the same things every night before you go to sleep, you teach your body the signals that it’s time for bed,” says the NSF. “Try taking a bath or shower…or reading a book.”


With schedules brimming with academics, sports and other extracurriculars, sleeping can seem like a chore. However, your mental and physical health depend on just how much of it you’re getting. So it’s time to stop underestimating the power of some beauty sleepyou can rest assured that your body will thank you for it.








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