Snooze or lose


Amber Allan

While walking the halls of West, it isn’t uncommon to see students complain about the amount of sleep they are getting. Sleep deprivation can cause many issues for teens that can affect everyday life as well as school life. So what exactly causes teenagers to be so tired? Is it the school, homework, teenagers own decisions, or something else?


The goal amount of sleep for teenagers is 8-10 hours a night, but with sports, clubs, and homework it can be a daily struggle to get enough sleep. Studies show that due to brain development in teenagers it is common for them to stay up late and sleep in in the morning. Neurotransmitters in the brain send and receive signals which can sometimes program the sleep and wake time of teens. This basically means that sometimes due to the brain growth teenagers may not necessarily have the ability to control when they fall asleep and when they wake up. So teenagers brains are essentially programmed to want to stay all night and sleep all day. up


According to Dr. Laura Duncan MD the main problem is with teens sleep is lifestyle choices, “when you go through adolescence your circadian rhythm (sleep wake cycle) shifts a couple of hours so your body wants to go to bed later and then it wants to get up later, but the busing system mandates that the older kids, teenagers, have to start school earlier so they can’t sleep later but yet they still don’t want to go to bed earlier so they stay up too late. So they don’t always adjust their lifestyle to achieve the ideal hours of sleep.”


Sleep deprivation can cause many problems in a teenagers life whether in or out of school. It can cause a lack of focus and cause a student to have difficulty comprehending things going on around them which in turn can affect a student’s performance at school. Ability to focus and stay focused can disappear when a student is very sleep deprived. Natalie Pratt, a sophomore at New Berlin West says, “I know if I got more sleep … I probably would get sick less and I would be able to perform my tasks and score better on my tests.”


According to Erin Gutowski, a pediatric student, sleep deprivation can lead to even more serious issues, “When we don’t get enough sleep, our body secretes an excess amount of lycortisol (a stress hormone), which has been associated with decreased metabolism, decreased attention span, and can lead to serious health effects, such as depression, anxiety, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and an overall shorter lifespan.” So lack of sleep can cause a student to struggle in school or affect their life overall.


However, there are also things that teens do at night that can cause their brain to stay thinking and make it hard for them to fall asleep at night. Parents tell kids that phones can make it hard for them to fall asleep and this is actually true. Screens emit blue light which can cause a lack of melatonin, a hormone in the brain that controls the body’s sleep and wake functions. Essentially, screen time keeps the brain awake. So when parents say no screen for 30 minutes before bed this is backed up with facts.


It can also help to keep phones in a room besides the bedroom for the night, Gutowski states, “91% of people spend 24 hours a day within a 3 foot radius of their phones”.  Teenagers phones are like an extra limb, on them at all times. Staying away from the phone for the night and putting it in another room can also improve sleep quality. Phones being away from arm’s reach can remove distractions from teens in the middle of the night thus giving them a longer more effective night’s sleep. Because the phone is often used as an alarm clock Gutowski says buying an actual alarm clock can solve the problem and allow the phone to be put in another room.


Sometimes however, teens can be at fault for their lack of sleep. According to the New Berlin West Wellness Coordinator Annah Osborne, “I also think one of the main reasons students don’t get enough sleep is because they do not make it a priority and make a personal choice to stay up later than appropriate.” This can be true, sometimes students know that they will be tired in the morning but they choose to use their phones anyways..


Busy after school schedules are what most people claim causes issues with their sleep ability. According to Gutowski, “I’ve had patients in my office who have told me that they regularly get home from school and practice around 8PM and are doing homework until midnight or 1AM, then wake up at 6 or 7 to get ready for school.” Homework is a problem for many students and can cause teens to have trouble with going to bed early. “Typically I do (have a lot of homework) so I would prefer to get about 8 hours because that’s the suggested amount… if I had less homework I would be able to get more,” says Pratt.


Therefore, sleep is often a common complaint in teens and many things can add up to create this problem. Being more aware of the issue and what can help improve sleep quantity can improve a student’s school life and decrease the possibility of sleep deprivation which in turn can affect their life in a more positive way.