The Truth Behind Teenage Sleep Deprivation

2 mins read

Teenagers need to be getting a comparably higher amount of sleep every night in relation to other age groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teens should be sleeping around 8 to 10 hours per night. Despite needing it the most, many teens rarely reach this threshold. The Better Health Channel predicts that most teens get about 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night, significantly less than what is recommended. Whether it be due to a boatload of schoolwork, caffeine abuse, or late-night TV show binges, most teens don’t hit the hay until late at night before having to wake up early the next morning.  

Even when teens get enough rest, many still do not feel well rested. According to a survey given to various M-A juniors, the majority of students report getting 5 to 6 and 7 to 8 hours of sleep, with only 8% reporting getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep. 

Without surprise, sleep deprivation is causing real problems among teens. During sleep, the body operates as an organization and reset system that filters the chaos from the day. During the day, the hippocampus stores information within the short-term memory. However, it isn’t until nighttime that the neocortex transforms these short-term memories into long-term storage. Thus, when someone isn’t getting enough sleep, they won’t be able to store memories and new information properly. 

During sleep, the body operates as an organization and reset system that filters the chaos from the day.

Additionally, lack of sleep can cause raised cortisol levels during the day. Cortisol is a hormone that helps establish a more alert state, so in order to compensate for the lack of sleep, the body releases this hormone. However, this has many negative consequences such as the risk of high blood pressure, anxiety, and Type 2 Diabetes. Rising cortisol levels throw students into a positive feedback loop that they struggle to escape from: the less sleep, the higher their cortisol, and the higher their cortisol, the harder it is to sleep. 

On students not getting enough sleep, AP Psychology teacher Jason Knowles said, “Some habits students are doing to harm their sleep is using their devices before bed. Sometimes it can be diet. If you’re drinking caffeine after 5 or 6 p.m..” He continued “It’s important to make sure you are only using your bed for sleeping. If you do homework on your bed, you’re telling your brain that is where you normally work.”

One recommendation to help improve sleep is to cut caffeine intake, especially after midday. Despite popular belief, caffeine does not increase levels of alertness, but rather it blocks feelings of tiredness. According to the Yale School of Medicine, after ingestion, caffeine is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and cells where it works as an antagonist, blocking the adenosine receptors that are responsible for feelings of tiredness. In addition, caffeine has a half-life of five hours, meaning it takes a very long time for it to clear from the body. Having a Celsius energy drink, which has 200 mg of caffeine, at noon, would still be in someone’s system by 10 p.m. at levels as high as 50 mg of caffeine, which is enough to be kept awake. 

At the end of the day, sleep is one of the most important and restorative aspects of a daily routine. It is so important for teens to not only get restful sleep but to get enough of it. While most teens have difficulty balancing their schedules, it is important to prioritize sleep to maximize success in and out of the classroom. 

Tiffany is a senior at M-A. She enjoys writing about local events and culture on campus. She is also a member of M-A’s Dance Team and dances competitively.

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