Lack of sleep may be affecting your academics, health and emotional well-being.

Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your academic performance, health, and mind.  Source:
Lack of sleep can be detrimental to your academic performance, health, and mind.

Studies conducted over a period of around thirty years show that only a small percentage of teens get the nine hours of sleep needed to function at their best in academics, athletics, and life. Teens who get at least nine hours of sleep have developed good sleeping patterns, while the rest of the teenagers (those who do not get their nine hours) may have been forced to stay up late working on homework, or in some cases, playing with electronics. This is a big problem because sleep loss can impair learning and development and increase the rates of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

The best way to combat sleep deprivation is extremely simple: avoid drinking caffeine after three in the afternoon. Studies show that caffeine consumption later in the day can keep you up at night. For even better rest results get off electronics such as laptops and iPods around thirty minutes before you go to bed.  This is helpful because artificial light from electronic screens messes with the melatonin levels in your brain making it harder to fall asleep. Other small changes you can make to improve your energy levels the next day include putting work away an hour before you go to bed, taking a hot bath or shower or drinking some non-caffeinated herbal tea (like valerian or chamomile) before going to bed. Last but not least is to simply go to bed earlier. Sleep loss is associated with brief mental lapses in attention during simple tasks that can be partially offset by increased effort or motivation. Tiredness and fatigue, however, tend to diminish motivation, particularly for tasks perceived as boring or tedious. Sleep deprivation can “sometimes mimic or exacerbate symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), including distractibility, impulsivity, and difficulty with effortful control of attention.” says Dr. Mindell, a specialist in sleep disorders. There is also evidence that sleep deprivation has marked influences on the ability to perform complex tasks or tasks that require attention in two or more areas at the same time.

In 2010, sixty-one studies found poor sleep quality, not enough sleep or the effect of sleepiness are significantly associated with the worst school performance from students between eight and eighteen years of age. “Sleep deprivation, whether from disorder or lifestyle, whether acute or chronic, poses significant cognitive risks in the performance of many ordinary tasks such as driving and operating machinery,” says Jeffrey S. Durmer, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of the Department of Neurology in Emory University School of Medicine. The problems caused by sleep deprivation are many, ranging from sleepiness, to poor academic performance, laziness or even death.

Scientists believe there is a new cause of sleep deprivation: school starting too early. Most teenagers need more sleep than younger children. Scientists and the school boards across the country are in a heated debate whether starting school later would be of any help. The scientists firmly believe that starting school later would ultimately help the students wake up a bit more, thus improving grades and behavior. School officials disagree with the scientists, saying that traffic would be a grave problem to the developed system. If school started later then students and staff alike would run into inconvenient traffic. After all, the time of day that scientists would prefer schools to start at is typically during the time of traffic for people who are trying to go to work. Most schools agree that the students are not getting enough sleep, however changing the start time is a gamble because it is unclear if students’ academic performances actually improve or not. If the starting time in high school changed by an hour it may help the students in their academic performances. However this is currently in a heated debate, not many schools will accommodate what the scientists urge them to do.

For the moment, the best thing to do is to sleep in, avoid caffeine, take a hot shower, go to bed as early as possible, and drink some herbal tea. These suggestions will help you to get the ultimate good nights sleep and to awaken in a good mood, ready to succeed.

-Michael Eckles

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