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  • Isabelle Nichol

Systemic Sleep Deprivation In Today’s Youth

By: Isabelle Nichol, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief


In this day and age, due to various factors, sleep can be elusive. Regardless of the cause, a lack of sleep can affect all sectors of an individual's life. A widely accepted definition for lack of sleep is when a person consistently has less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Many 'surface level' symptoms arise without amounting too much. Some examples are drowsiness, poor memory, and a depressed mood. However, depending on the severity, these symptoms could be amplified, and grow into something much more problematic. A chronic lack of sleep can manifest into obesity, diabetes (and other linked complications), cardiovascular complications, and increased anxiety and depressive moods.

Teenagers specifically are subject to chronic sleep deprivation for three main reasons: their biology, frequent exposure to blue light from technology, and unattainable expectations. Teenagers are wired differently than both adults, and younger children, they tend to have a later natural sleep cycle. They are causing the average teen to sleep from around midnight to 10 am if they had the choice of course. Due to this delayed cycle, teens going to schools which start at 8 or 9 am tend to lose sleep, and their natural circadian rhythm doesn't allow them to sleep before midnight, creating a terrible chain reaction. It's much easier said than done to break these natural cycles. A variety of studies have shown that the early starts to school days result in kids not being fully awake, or not completely 'there' so to speak.

Another factor that plagues teens is their constant exposure to technology. As a society, we have grown to be incredibly dependent upon technology to complete projects for both work and school. This reliance weighs heavily on youth. To give an example, many high school students finish various assignments online, then decompress, socialize or relax with other online features (such as playing video games or watching their favorite shows). Excessive exposure to the blue light emitted by screens can be pretty harmful to someone's circadian rhythm. It delays melatonin production, which in turn causes the individual to seek out rest even later than usual. According to a 2010 study, only 8% of teenagers are consistently attaining the bare minimum amount of sleep. The recommended amount of sleep, discovered through many studies, is just over 9 hours. Less than one tenth of students are getting that amount.

The third concrete reason for sleep deprivation in this demographic is expectations. Schools, as an organization, seem to have this false perception of how much work can pile up. This leads to students becoming overworked and burnt-out after spending several hours each night on their homework. It's much harder to start sleeping enough, even if they wanted to. Not to mention, the sheer amount of extracurriculars that most teens are involved in contributes to this sleep deprivation, as teens often balance multiple positions at a time. Regardless of these challenges, there are methods that anyone can employ to improve their quality, and quantity of sleep.

Depending on the situation at hand, any of these strategies can be used or adapted to aid. Some fixes could be as easy as setting a goal of separating yourself from electronics at least 20 minutes before bed. Giving your brain time to rest after being bombarded by blue light could help it produce melatonin at a proper, natural rate. The more consistent the melatonin production, the better your sleep schedule could potentially be. A couple of examples of this separation would be making the conscious decision to charge devices outside your bedroom, leaving them on the other side of the room at night, or creating a specific area where technology stays overnight (such as a cabinet or bin).

Another option is creating a stricter routine to follow. To give an example, spreading assignments out throughout a couple of days instead of completing every assignment the day it's due could be effective. Spacing out work with a built-in time to complete assignments can be incredibly helpful for a good work-homelife balance. Although sadly, this option isn't as accessible, especially for older students being bombarded with work, so it's not the most highly rated on this list.

One more straightforward method is eliminating or lowering daily caffeine intake. Caffeine tends to cause sleep issues for a vast majority of consumers, even more so when consumed excessively. To sum it up, caffeine stimulates the nervous system. Excessive consumption can cause symptoms such as restlessness, insomnia, an increased heart rate, anxiety, and many more. This constant stimulation can cause a lack of sleep, especially if the over-consumption of caffeine becomes a habit. Even making efforts to minimize your caffeine intake, instead of completely avoiding it, can greatly help you with a proper sleep schedule.

To conclude, many articles and studies confirm what most suspect: the average teen has the odds stacked against them, robbing them of the proper amount of sleep for their developing minds and bodies. It may be more difficult, but there are various methods for them to take charge and fix their poor sleep schedules for their own good.


Sources:


Altevogt, B.M, and H.R Colten. “3 Extent and Health Consequences of Chronic Sleep Loss ... - NCBI Bookshelf.” National Library of Medicine, 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/.

“Caffeine: Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews.” WebMD, WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-979/caffeine#:~:text=Caffeine%20works%20by%20stimulating%20the,pill%22%20that%20increases%20urine%20flow.

Garey, Juliann. “Why Are Teenagers so Sleep-Deprived?” Child Mind Institute, 12 Oct. 2021, https://childmind.org/article/teenagers-sleep-deprived/#:~:text=The%20major%20reasons%20for%20sleep,have%20to%20get%20to%20school.

Mostafavi, Beata. “10 Tips to Help Your Teen Sleep Better.” Teenagers and Sleep: 10 Tips for Sleep Deprived Teens | Michigan Medicine, 17 Sept. 2018, https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/childrens-health/10-tips-to-help-your-teen-sleep-better.







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