September 12, 2005
It's time for back to school...
back to late nights of homework... back to waking early to make
it to class on time... and back to days and nights so full that
sleep gets the few hours remaining when all else is done.
somnolence, hypersomnia) is a feeling of abnormal drowsiness, often
with a tendency to actually fall asleep. It is associated with memory
deficit, impaired social and occupational performance, and car crashes.
Common causes of sleepiness include short sleep time, sleep disorders
and other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism."
Even without "sleep
disorders and other medical conditions," lack of sleep makes
people sleepy -- and sleepy people do not function at their best.
All that said, who has time to sleep?
on teenagers do not generally allow them to get a full night's sleep:
early school starting times, homework and extracurricular activities,
part-time jobs, and television and computers have made healthy sleep
patterns nearly impossible to achieve (Black 2000; Dahl 1999)."
Won't grades go down (and
stress levels rise) if students go to bed early rather than staying
up late and getting it all done?
"... Sleep requirements
differ from one person to the next, depending on age, physical activity
levels, general health and other individual factors. In general:
... Teenagers - need about nine to 10 hours
... Teenagers have an increased sleep requirement at the time when
social engagements and peer pressure cause a reduction in sleep
time. Lifestyle factors such as early school start times deprive
them of the required sleep-in."
BHC, Victoria (Australia) Government
Nine to ten hours? Is it
really worth it to commit that much time to sleep? And, if "Sleep
requirements differ from one person to the next," then how
do different people know what
is right for them?
"Even if you think
you're getting enough sleep, you may not be. Here are some of the
signs that you may need more sleep:
* difficulty waking up in the morning
* inability to concentrate
* falling asleep during classes
* feelings of moodiness and even depression"
For those who are not getting
as much sleep as their bodies need:
"This sleep deficit
impacts everything from a teen's ability to pay attention in class
to his or her mood. Research shows that 20% of high school students
fall asleep in class, and experts have been able to tie lost sleep
to poorer grades. Lack of sleep also damages people's ability to
do their best in athletics. Slowed responses and concentration from
lack of sleep don't just affect school or sports performance, though.
The fact that sleep deprivation slows reaction times can be life
threatening for teens who drive. ... Lack of sleep has also been
linked to emotional troubles, such as feelings of sadness and depression.
Sleep helps keep us physically healthy, too, by slowing our body's
systems enough to re-energize us after everyday activities."
"The fact that sleep
deprivation slows reaction times can be life threatening for teens
"Knipling and Wang
(1995) found that drivers younger than 30 accounted for almost two-thirds
of drowsy-driving crashes, despite representing only about one-fourth
of licensed drivers. ... Horne and Reyner (1995a) suggest that a
combination of having more of the chronic and acute risk factors
and frequently being on the roads during nighttime hours (greater
exposure) may explain the greater incidence of drowsiness-related
crashes in youth. ... The subgroup at greatest risk comprised the
brightest, most energetic, hardest working teens.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Those who try to fit the
most into a 24 hour day are the least likely to get to bed early
and leave enough time tosleep.
When was the last time
you heard friends or classmates brag about how little sleep they
got the night before? Whether it is a result of work, school, social
plans, watching TV, or a result of being pulled in many different
directions, the bottom line is that many teens are not getting as
much sleep as they need.
"'Lack of sleep needs
to stop being regarded as a badge of honour and seen for the serious
hazard that it actually is.'"
You may have heard others
say that they are too busy to sleep. You may have even thought this
yourself. Have ever heard someone say that they are so busy that
they have to be sure to get to bed early and get enough sleep?
Questions of the Week:
How much sleep do you need each night to function at your best?
How do you know? Is it possible to do all that you want on a given
day and still get enough sleep? For nights when you don't get enough
sleep, what is it that you are typically choosing to do rather than
sleep? What changes would you need to make in order to get enough
sleep? How do you think you would function differently on any given
busy day if you had more sleep? If you had less sleep?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum