Lack of sleep could impact performance at school

Perhaps it’s the late night party, hanging out with friends or even studying late into the night. Whatever it may be, most teenagers are not getting enough sleep, and this can seriously impact grades, among other things.

“If you’re not sleeping well, it can severely affect your attention and focus in a classroom setting,” said Fairmont Business teacher Len Byer. What some teens don’t realize is that those lost hours of sleep could even mean the difference between an A or a C — or a C and an F.

“I think sleeping gives me more energy,” said senior Allyssa Oney. “I feel I look better after more sleep, and it makes me more alert and ready to do work.” After allowing the body to rest properly overnight, one can wake up refreshed even after feeling beat the night before.

After a night of restlessness, however, the ability to perform a variety of tasks can be impaired significantly. One of the biggest problems occurs when driving tired. According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving while being awake for more than 18 hours is as dangerous as being legally drunk. Tired drivers account for almost 100,000 crashes a year.

Blame friends, school and biology

Teenagers are one of the most common age groups to miss those crucial hours of sleep. Dr. Carin Lamm, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Sinai School of Medicine, told Boston’s WHDH-TV that the average teen needs nine to nine and a half hours of sleep a day. But because of late night activities and early school hours, Lamm said, “nearly a quarter of teens get less than six and a half hours of sleep every night.”

The reasons teenagers are having so much trouble getting to bed include both social situations and natural biology. According to the National Sleep Foundation, before adolescence, a person’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, usually makes one sleepy around 8 or 9 p.m. After puberty, the body is programmed to become tired around 11 p.m. or later and usually requires more sleep during the morning. Everyone’s normal routine and required hours of sleep are different, but these changes seem to affect most teenagers.

A delayed body clock coupled with part-time jobs, early school hours and social situations are putting more and more teenagers out of touch with a proper sleep schedule. “Teenagers tend to sleep less since we’re busier during the night,” said senior Sarah Avery. “Instead of going to bed at 9:30, we stay up playing games or talking to our friends.”

Is a later school start the answer?

When teens are forced to wake up earlier due to morning classes, their performance can be significantly altered. Some schools are countering the sleeping in class and spotty morning attendance by starting school later. Schools in Minneapolis, Denver and Des Moines have taken this step, and they are experiencing better attendance, reporting less depression in students, and are saving money from needing fewer buses in the morning.

Because teens are tired in the morning, more and more are turning to drinking coffee, energy drinks or other caffeinated substances that can actually make them even more tired. “It’s true that you can wake yourself up with a cup of coffee in the morning, but as soon as it wears off, you will crash even worse than usual,” said Avery.

Not sleeping enough has always been an issue for teenagers, but some think that the problem is getting worse. “The sleep problem has always been there for teenagers and adults as well, but in recent years it seems to getting worse,” said Byer. “There are just too many things distracting students, such as spending time on the Internet and working while in school. These distractions are also taking away from study time and further preventing progress.”

This amount of sleep deprivation can be crippling for students. Lamm said that even 25 minutes of extra sleep can be the difference between an A and a C in a class, which makes not sleeping enough a real and obvious problem for many teenagers.

“You simply won’t want to work if you’re tired,” said Oney. “All you can think about is crawling back into bed.”

Here are some tips from the National Sleep Foundation that may help you get a better and longer sleep.

– Get regular daily exercise.
– Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking, especially 4 hours before bed.
– Ensure that you have a properly sized and comfortable bed.
– Keep your room at a comfortable temperature, light and noise level.
– Keep a regular sleeping pattern.
– Eat properly, especially before bed.
– Create a relaxing routine before jumping into bed.
– Ensure that you are relaxed and tired.