By: Anna Boyd
Sept. 20th, 2022: Teenagers are seeing increasing levels of sleep deprivation as the debate over how high schools should combat low energy levels in students continues.
Screentime has been on an increase in the United States since the school year has begun. Parents are struggling to wake their children up in the morning, due to their bodies not getting an adequate amount of sleep a night. Studies have been conducted proving that preteens and teens need more than 9 hours of sleep a night to maintain physical and mental health.
According to the CDC, less than 30% of high school students are getting an accurate amount of sleep a night. Studies suggest that teens are in a sleep epidemic right now due to early school start times, excessive exposure to bright lights and screens, and lack of exposure to daylight.
The time we go to sleep and wake up is done by two factors in the brain. The first factor is a physiological timer that increases our need to sleep according to how long we stay awake. This is due to chemical signals released by neurons like adenosine.
Adenosine is created in our brains while we are awake which leads to increase fatigue as the day goes on. The second factor is the biological clock in our brain that tells us when we should be awake and when we should be sleeping. This is located in our hypothalamus.
During our teenage years, both factors are off track. They can delay the timing of sleep. Teens are able to be awake much later than their usual time to sleep due to the wakefulness tracker.
The biological clock in teens is delayed due to it running at a much slower pace due to it responding differently to light cues. This cycle causes teenagers to run on a sleep schedule later than older adults would. An older adult may begin to feel tired around 10 pm while a teen will not begin to feel tired until midnight or much later.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends schools delay their start time to after 8:30 am to help control these students’ sleep cycles. Pushing back the start time in schools helps students gain up to 34 more minutes of sleep.
In order to obtain healthy sleep habits, students should try to go to sleep earlier in the night, get an adequate amount of sunlight a day, and reduce screen time as much as possible. Chronic sleep deprivation leads to obesity, depression and anxiety, and addictive behavior.
Students should strive for adequate sleep to maintain and improve their mental, physical, and emotional health.
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