The Sleepy Teens

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"Almost all teenagers, as they reach puberty, become walking zombies because they are getting far too little sleep," remarks Cornell University psychologist James B. Maas, PhD, one of the nation's leading sleep experts. Insufficient sleep is a very serious problem effecting teenagers around the country. In fact, 26% of high school students routinely sleep less than six and a half hours on school nights. Sleep deprivation arises from multiple circumstances that result in various obstructions; therefore the nation needs to find a way to prevent inadequate sleep all together.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation among teens has numerous causes. The reasons include personal choice, employment, the sleeping environment, and even babies. Frequently, teenagers choose to “hit the hay” late at night, inevitably providing very little sleep for themselves. The time normally dedicated to sleep is preoccupied with video games, television, homework, and, of course, the computer. Teens do not think that rest is necessary so they disregard it completely.

Indisputably, jobs are a hassle when it comes to sleep. More high school students are applying for jobs to pay for rising insurance and gas prices. Many occupations that teenagers seek do not provide proper work hours for high school students. Teens find their evenings wrapped up in work, leaving little space for school duties. As a result, sleep is decreased to make-up for the lack of time.

Sadly, the sleeping environment of a teenager is not always satisfactory. Loud music often blares in the background or television screens flash glowing lights across the ceiling. Let us not forget that teenage pregnancy is rising at a rapid pace which can only mean one thing¬¬-- crying babies. Mothers and fathers are kept awake nightly by the wails of their infants. Clearly, no normal human would sleep well under these conditions. Under such circumstances, only negative results may follow.

Obviously, most teenagers are lacking immensely in the sleep department. Is the world ready for every teenager to be deprived of sleep? The effects would be copious. Studies show that adolescents who do not acquire their recommended amount of sleep have chronic tiredness, slow reflexes, and decreased memory and retention. In many cases, wide mood swings and increased pessimism, sadness, stress, and anger have been noted as well. Drowsiness and fatigue among teenagers are the cause of more than half of the 100,000 traffic accidents that occur from inadequate sleep each year. Teens may predict a possibility of an accident occurring but cannot act quickly enough to prevent it. Grades may also suffer because memory and retention are at an ultimate low. Even with a great deal of studying, students cannot remember important information for worksheets, projects, or even tests.

In addition to teenagers’ grades plummeting, attitudes alter. Sleep-deprived teens morph into completely different people who are stressed, angered, and saddened very easily. Relationships betweens friends and family are strained because the deprived one is irritable and reticent. The attitudes may even lead to depression, requiring medical help, or delinquency, requiring the assistance of juvenile detention centers. In fact, out of 729 people ages twelve to seventeen studied at a juvenile detention center, nearly half experienced the effects of a sleep disorder. Obviously, the results of sleep deprivation can be more than one person can handle.

How will we mend the problem of adolescent sleep deprivation? Should every high school offer a daily naptime? Although many teens would not mind a nap sometime in their day, there are easier methods to solving sleep deficiency. In fact, many high schools are starting later in the morning to provide students more time to sleep. Several states have even instituted legislation to require schools to commence later. Those that have participated have already noted higher test scores, decreased depression, less petulance, and fewer conflicts.

Nevertheless, high schools cannot completely heal the wound of the sleepy teens. Parents and students must begin to familiarize themselves with the causes and effects of sleep deprivation and discover ways to prevent it. For example, some families have a set schedule for the evening, assisting their teenagers with prioritizing their time more sufficiently. Other families have used resources such as the internet and local libraries to find articles and books discussing the importance of a good night’s rest. In reality the cure of sleep deprivation is in clear view, we just have to take advantage of it.

Too often, teenagers wake up to a new day having only five to six hours of sleep under their belt. The causes for these sleepless nights are as plentiful as grass in an endless prairie; while the effects are detrimental and life-changing. Fortunately, adolescents have a chance to repair the ongoing troubles of their sleep-deprived generation. Will teens grasp on to their only chance to change, or will they disregard sleep forever and yearn for their pillows at the wrong time of the day?





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