Opinion: Sleep loss a problem area for teens

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This continues our 2012-13 Speak Out Loud installment. Throughout the school year, the Denton Record-Chronicle will publish photos, opinions, features, news stories and more from high school student journalists and yearbook staffers in and around Denton. Speak Out Loud allows high school students to share their news and views with the Denton community and beyond.

 

For a lot of high school students, history class may also be known as nap time. These night owls definitely aren’t a new topic of discussion.

Despite sleep deprivation being a problem, people don’t recognize why teens are so sleepy and how to fix it. Many fingers point to the excessive use of phones and computers, as well as too much homework and extra-curricular activities.

Even though technology and schoolwork do have their place in sleep deprivation, these reasons aren’t the entire problem among teens and always being “just tired.” Most people don’t understand that if teens don’t start trying to alter their sleep habits, long-lasting damage, such as difficulties with weight, mood and grades, could occur.

There’s actually a biological link to the sleep-late, rise-late pattern of teenagers. Like most things, it all goes back to puberty.

Chemicals are consistently changing during this time, which cause habits and behavior that other developmental stages don’t have.

According to Virgil D. Wooten, M.D., director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Greater Cincinnati, humans have a chemical called melatonin that’s released when the sun goes down that makes a body ready for bed. But once again, since their chemicals are off, teens don’t get drowsy until far after dark. This can also be linked to the trouble teens have waking up in the morning. Basically, the later you fall asleep, the later you wake up. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need the most amount of sleep, at more than nine hours, because of the constant changes in their lives (internally and externally). However, it’s the teens getting the least amount of sleep.

From a recent survey conducted in September, Guyer High School Wildcats are getting about an hour less of sleep with every grade they enter. Freshmen such as Kris Eckstorm come into high school getting around eight full hours of sleep; seniors like Evangelina Riedel leave getting about five. But why does occasionally falling asleep in class matter? A few of America’s epidemics — obesity, moody teenagers and low grades — can all be connected to the overlooked suspect: sleep.

A lot of things happen in the brain while it’s asleep, like storing memories and controlling hormones. Without sleep, high schoolers’ IQ points drop since knowledge hasn’t been permanently stored. Emotional problems arise when hormones are off balance in the brain, causing things as serious as depression.

According to Dr. Rachel Salas of John Hopkins Medicine, he discovered that the body’s appetite increases when tired in order to maintain energy. Scientists have come to associate sleep loss to some of the causes of obesity.

Before you decide to flood your schedule with non-stop activity, and before you decide to tackle mountains of homework, and before you try answering that text from your BFF, consider the benefits of having a little free time before bed. In the end, compare a dropped club, a bad homework grade or a missed text to the long-term damage caused to one’s mind and body.

 

EDIE SCOTT is a junior at Guyer High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” writing program for student journalists.

 


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