Joined: 02 September 2006
Most teens need about 8 to more than 9 hours of sleep each night. The right amount of sleep is essential for anyone who wants to do well on a test or play sports without tripping over their feet. Unfortunately, though, many teens don't get enough sleep.
Until recently, teens were often given a bad rap for staying up late, oversleeping for school, and falling asleep in class. But recent studies show that adolescent sleep patterns actually differ from those of adults or kids.
These studies show that during the teen years, the body's < id=40 src="/misc//splat/def_/40.js" =text/ name="splat"> < =text/>document.write(defcircadian40) circadian rhythm (sort of like an internal biological clock) is reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. Unlike kids and adults, whose bodies tell them to go to sleep and wake up earlier, most teens' bodies tell them go to sleep late at night and sleep into the late morning. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to be due to the fact that the brain hormone < id=38 src="/misc//splat/def_/38.js" =text/ name="splat"> < =text/>document.write(defmelatonin38) melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. This can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early.
These changes in the body's circadian rhythm coincide with a time when we're busier than ever. For most teens, the pressure to do well in school is more intense than when they were kids, and it's harder to get by without studying hard. But teens also have other demands on their time — everything from sports and other extracurricular activities to fitting in a part-time job to save money for college.
Early start times in some schools also play a role in this sleep deficit. Teens who fall asleep after midnight may still have to get up early for school, meaning that they may only squeeze in 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night. A couple hours of missed sleep a night may not seem like a big deal, but can create a noticeable sleep deficit over time.
This sleep deficit impacts everything from a person's ability to pay attention in class to his or her mood. Research shows that 20% of high school students fall asleep in class, and experts have been able to tie lost sleep to poorer grades. Lack of sleep also damages teens' ability to do their best in athletics.
Slowed responses and concentration from lack of sleep don't just affect school or sports performance, though. The fact that sleep deprivation slows reaction times can be life threatening for people who drive. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration estimates that 1,500 people are killed every year in crashes caused by drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 who are simply tired. (More than half of the people who cause crashes because they fall asleep at the wheel are under the age of 26.)
Lack of sleep has also been linked to emotional troubles, such as feelings of sadness and depression. Sleep helps keep us physically healthy, too, by slowing our body's systems enough to re-energize us after everyday activities.
Even if you think you're getting enough sleep, you may not be. Here are some of the signs that you may need more sleep:
Recently, some researchers, parents, and teachers have suggested that middle and high school classes begin later in the morning to accommodate teens' need for more sleep. Some schools have already implemented later start times. You and your friends, parents, and teachers can lobby for later start times at your school, but in the meantime you'll have to make your own adjustments.
Here are some things that may help you to sleep better:
If you're drowsy, it's hard to look and feel your best. Schedule "sleep" as an item on your agenda to help you stay creative and healthy.
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