Final Draft Sleep Deprivation and Its Effect. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood that teens, will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts. While you are sleeping, your body is busy tending to your physical and mental health and getting you ready for another day. In children and adolescents, hormones that promote growth are released during sleep. These hormones help build muscle mass, as well as make repair to cells and tissues. Hence sleep is vital to development during puberty. When you are deprived of sleep, your brain can’t function properly, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotional state. The more obvious signs of sleep deprivation are excessive sleepiness, yawning and irritability. The most recent national poll shows that more than 87 percent of U.S. high school students get far less than the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation is dangerous to your health and can dramatically lower your quality of life.
Nidhi, 17, my high school friend, often reaches a breaking point around 11 p.m, when she collapses in tears. For 10 minutes or so, she just sits at her desk and cries, overwhelmed by unrelenting school demands. She is desperately tired and longs for sleep. But she knows she must move through it, because more assignments in physics, calculus or French await her. She finally crawls into bed around midnight or 12:30 a.m. The next morning, she fights to stay awake in her first-period U.S. history class, which begins at 8:15. She is unable to focus on what’s being taught, and her mind drifts. You feel tired and exhausted, but you think you just need to get through the day so you can go home and sleep. But that night, she will have to try to catch up on what she missed in class. And the cycle begins again. It is an insane system and the process of learning is lost. Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning.
Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. Second, during the night various sleep cycles plays a role in consolidating memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you have learned and experienced during the day. Lastly, it can effect our circadian rhythm, this involve a problem in the timing of when a person sleeps and is awake. The human body has a master circadian clock in a control center of the brain known as suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This internal clock regulates the timing of such body rhythms as temperature and hormones levels. The circadian clock functions in a cycle that lasts a little longer than 24 hours.
The circadian clock is set primarily by visual cues of light and darkness that are communicated along a pathway from the eyes to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Circadian rhythm and their sensitivity to time cues may change as a person ages. I think high school is the real danger spot in terms of sleep deprivation,” said William Dement, MD, PhD, founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, the first of its kind in the world. It’s a huge problem. What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could perform, whether it’s in school, on the roadways, on the sports field or in terms of physical and emotional health. Social and cultural factors, as well as the advent of technology, all have collided with the biology of the adolescent to prevent teens from getting enough rest. Since the early 1990s, it’s been established that teens have biological tendency to go to sleep later — as much as two hours later — than their younger. Sleep also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair your blood vessels and heart. Sleep deprivation can lead to higher risk of chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. When you are sleeping, your immune system produces protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies and cells. It uses these tools to fight off foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. These cytokines and other protective substances also helps you sleep, giving the immune system more energy to defend against illness. In other words, Sleep deprivation means your immune system doesn’t have a chance to build up its forces. Studies have shown that, If you don’t get enough sleep, its more likely that it can effect with your decision making. Long-term sleep deprivation raises the risk of developing chronic illnesses like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Since sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, you are also more vulnerable to respiratory problems like the common cold and influenza. If you already have a chronic lung disease, sleep deprivation is likely to make it worse. Nidhi is among a generation of teens growing up chronically sleep-deprived. While studies show that both adults and teens in industrialized nations are becoming more sleep deprived, the problem is most acute among teens, said Nanci Yuan, MD, director of the Stanford Children’s Health Sleep Center. In a detailed 2014 report, the American Academy of Pediatrics called the problem of tired teens a public health epidemic. Yet when they enter their high school years, they find themselves at schools that typically start the day at a relatively early hour.
So their time for sleep is compressed, and many are jolted out of bed before they are physically or mentally ready. In the process, they not only lose precious hours of rest, but their natural rhythm is disrupted, as they are being robbed of the dream-rich, rapid-eye-movement stage of sleep, some of the deepest, most productive sleep time, said pediatric sleep specialist Rafael Pelayo, MD, with the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic.“When teens wake up earlier, it cuts off their dreams,” said Pelayo, a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “We’re not giving them a chance to dream.”At the same time, today’s teens are maturing in an era of ubiquitous electronic media, and they are fervent participants. Some 92 percent of U.S. teens have smartphones, and 24 percent report being online constantly, according to a 2015 report by the Pew Research Center. Teens have access to multiple electronic devices they use simultaneously, often at night.
Some 72 percent bring cell phones into their bedrooms and use them when they are trying to go to sleep, and 28 percent leave their phones on while sleeping, only to be awakened at night by texts, calls or emails, according to a 2011 National Sleep Foundation poll on electronic use. In addition, some 64 percent use electronic music devices, 60 percent use laptops and 23 percent play video games in the hour before they went to sleep, the poll found. More than half reported texting in the hour before they went to sleep, and these media fans were less likely to report getting a good night’s sleep and feeling refreshed in the morning. They were also more likely to drive when drowsy, the poll found. The problem of sleep-phase delay is exacerbated when teens are exposed late at night to lit screens, which send a message via the retina to the portion of the brain that controls the body’s circadian clock.
The message: It’s not nighttime yet. Yuan, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics, said she routinely sees young patients in her clinic who fall asleep at night with cell phones in hand. Adolescents are also entering a period in which they are striving for autonomy and want to make their own decisions, including when to go to sleep. But studies suggest adolescents do better in terms of mood and fatigue levels if parents set the bedtime — and choose a time that is realistic for the child’s needs. According to a 2010 study published in the journal. Sleep, children are more likely to be depressed and to entertain thoughts of suicide if a parent sets a late bedtime of midnight or beyond. In families where parents set the time for sleep, the teens are happier, better-rested state, may be a sign of an organized family life, not simply a matter of bedtime. On the other hand, the growing child and growing teens still benefit from someone who will help set the structure for their lives. And they aren’t good at making good decisions.
According to the 2011 sleep poll, by the time U.S. students reach their senior year in high school, they are sleeping an average of 6.9 hours a night, down from an average of 8.4 hours in the sixth grade. The poll included teens from across the country from diverse ethnic backgrounds. American teens aren’t the worst off when it comes to sleep, however; South Korean adolescents have that distinction, sleeping on average 4.9 hours a night, according to a 2012 study in Sleep by South Korean researchers. These Asian teens routinely begin school between 7 and 8:30 a.m., and most sign up for additional evening classes that may keep them up as late as midnight. South Korean adolescents also have relatively high suicide rates (10.7 per 100,000 a year), and the researchers speculate that chronic sleep deprivation is a contributor to this disturbing phenomenon.
By contrast, Australian teens are among those who do particularly well when it comes to sleep time, averaging about nine hours a night, possibly because schools there usually start later. Regardless of where they live, most teens follow a pattern of sleeping less during the week and sleeping in on the weekends to compensate. But many accumulate such a backlog of sleep debt that they don’t sufficiently recover on the weekend and still wake up fatigued when Monday comes around. Moreover, the shifting sleep patterns on the weekend — late nights with friends, followed by late mornings in bed — are out of sync with their weekday rhythm. Many studies show students who sleep less suffer academically, as chronic sleep loss impairs the ability to remember, concentrate, think abstractly and solve problems. Given the health risks associated with sleep problems, school districts around the country have been looking at one issue over which they have some control: when school starts in the morning.
The trend was set by the town of Edina, Minnesota, a well-to-do suburb of Minneapolis, which conducted a landmark experiment in student sleep in the late 1990s. It shifted the high school’s start time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and then asked University of Minnesota researchers to look at the impact of the change. The researchers found some surprising results: Students reported feeling less depressed and less sleepy during the day and more empowered to succeed. There was no comparable improvement in student well-being in surrounding school districts where start times remained the same. With these findings in hand, the entire Minneapolis Public School District shifted start times for 57,000 students at all of its schools in 1997 and found similarly positive results.
Attendance rates rose, and students reported getting an hour’s more sleep each school night — or a total of five more hours of sleep a week — countering skeptics who argued that the students would respond by just going to bed later. Other studies have reinforced the link between later start times and positive health benefits.
One 2010 study at an independent high school in Rhode Island found that after delaying the start time by just 30 minutes, students slept more and showed significant improvements in alertness and mood. And a 2014 study in two counties in Virginia found that teens were much less likely to be involved in car crashes in a county where start times were later, compared with a county with an earlier start time. Bolstered by the evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2014 issued a strong policy statement encouraging middle and high school districts across the country to start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to help preserve the health of the nation’s youth. Some districts have heeded the call, though the decisions have been hugely contentious, as many consider school schedules sacrosanct and cite practical issues, such as bus schedules, as obstacles. In Fairfax County, Virginia, it took a decade of debate before the school board voted in 2014 to push back the opening school bell for its 57,000 students.
And in Palo Alto, where a recent cluster of suicides has caused much community wide soul-searching, the district superintendent issued a decision in the spring, over the strenuous objections of some teachers, students and administrators, to eliminate “zero period” for academic classes — an optional period that begins at 7:20 a.m. and is generally offered for advanced studies. Certainly, changing school start times is only part of the solution, experts say. More widespread education about sleep and more resources for students are needed. Parents and teachers need to trim back their expectations and minimize pressures that interfere with teen sleep. And there needs to be a cultural shift, including a move to discourage late-night use of electronic devices, to help youngsters gain much-needed rest.
At some point, we are going to have to confront this as a society. For the health and well-being of the nation, we should all be taking better care of our sleep, and we certainly should be taking better care of the sleep of our youth. Although you might not be able to control all of the factors that interfere with your sleep, you can adopt habits that encourage better sleep. Start with these simple sleep tips. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. There’s a caveat, though. If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you’re tired. If you agonize over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off. Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too.
The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night. Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep. Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping.
Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters. Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the mid afternoon. If you work nights, you’ll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight — which adjusts your internal clock — doesn’t interrupt your daytime sleep. Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep.
Timing is important, though. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day. When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night — but if you often have trouble sleeping, contact your doctor. Identifying and treating any underlying causes can help you get the better sleep you deserve.