By Aakash Jain ’14
Sleep deprivation is a wide-spread epidemic among American teenagers, according to multiple national studies.
The American Sleep Disorders Association recommends the average teenager get nine and a half hours of sleep per night to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
However, in 2009, only 31 percent of high school students reported getting at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night.
Unhealthy sleeping habits, especially among teenagers, have been scientifically linked to obesity, reduced cortisol secretion, suppression of growth hormones, heart disease, psychosis and many more serious health problems.
“Maybe three to five hours,” said Ryan Ziltzer ’14 when asked how much sleep he got each night. Ziltzer cited homework and living far from Brophy as the two major reasons he’s often unable to get adequate sleep.
“I got three last night. I just have so much work to do,” said Richard Park ’12.
When asked if lack of sleep affects his day to day life, Park added, “I don’t really see a problem. Not really.”
Studies have shown that not enough sleep often leads to poorer grades and more dangerous driving habits.
For example, a 1998 survey of more than 3,000 high-school students by psychologists from the College of the Holy Cross and Brown University found that students who reported they were getting Cs, Ds and Fs in school went to bed about 40 minutes later than students who reported As and Bs.
Also, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that one in every five serious motor vehicle injuries is related to driver fatigue. In fact, the organization asserts that nearly 80,000 drivers fall asleep behind the wheel every day.
In 2000, researchers in Australia and New Zealand reported that extreme cases of sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as alcohol induced intoxication.
Caffeine or other products to boost energy are only short-term solutions and fail to solve the underlying problem.
Most researchers agree the only definite way to eliminate these negative effects is to simply increase nightly sleep time.
Scientists and educators are trying to address this growing problem, but few of their suggestions have been implemented.
For example, many sleep researchers have recommended that schools push back high-school starting times so that students can get their needed rest.
Most schools argue that adjusting schedules is too costly and complicated, but some progress has been made. For example, the Connecticut legislature is considering a bill that would push back public schools’ starting times to 8:30 a.m.
However, widespread change is unlikely with such drastic measures.
Concrete adjustments students can make include being better organized with schoolwork, prioritizing the importance of various activities and refraining from procrastination.