Sleep Deprivation: teen’s biggest nightmare

Modern teenagers have a lot going on in their lives. With exam stress and a huge focus on their futures, as well as being a time when their bodies are changing, sleep is more important than ever.

However, research has found on average teenagers only get 7 hours (with many getting less) when they actually need about 9 ¼ hours.

Sleep is a vital part of life.

If teens continue to have a lack of it, they will have more injuries, become more ill and exam results will suffer. The stereotype of grumpy teenagers is actually becoming true, as sleep deprivation causes teens to feel moody and perform poorly, and often they don’t think about their actions when they are tired.

This lack of sleep is having a serious impact on children’s health — with insufficient sleep linked to everything from impeded brain development to heart problems, depression and obesity.

Biological sleep patterns shift towards later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence -meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:30 pm.

Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia and restless legs syndrome due to a variety of factors. A Panorama programme called Sleepless Britain has found that hospital attendances in England for children under 14 with sleep disorders have tripled in ten years.

Professor Paul Gringras, head of the Children’s Sleep Disorder unit at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital says everything from social pressures to our technological dependency on gadgets can wreck a child’s sleep.

Artificial light emitted from technology can stop the natural production of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.

The Professor adds: “The content that children are viewing on these gadgets can be just as harmful to sleep as well.”  

Students get a constant stream of messages, which puts them on alert all the time. This means their stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are high in the evenings, when they should be at low levels to allow melatonin to work.

So what can we do to fix this issue?

If teens are going to perform well they need to be able to get more sleep. Having a regular, calming bedtime routine, which includes shutting down all devices and turning down loud music and bright light is vital.

Teens would achieve more if they were allowed to have a lie-in and not start their classes until later to sync with their body clocks.

After talking to several GCSE students at Truro High School, it became clear that they all feel they would do better if school started at 10am.

Amy Fisher, a year 10 student, says: “I am always tired and often hungry. I struggle to wake up and I get angry very easily. It would be amazing if school started later!”

All the students said that homework and stress was the main culprit when it comes to causing them to get little sleep.

Holly Owers, who is currently studying for her GCSE’S, stated that her lack of sleep reflects in her work and exam results. The students felt that the school should take responsibility.

They believe the school day should start later for GCSE students and deadlines on homework should be increased to balance out with everything else they have to manage.

Reported by Maya Brookes

BBC School Report