The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

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Parents, teachers, and doctors often tell teenagers and younger children that sleep is essential to their growth and development, but while aware of the dangers of sleep deprivation, many students only get a meager amount of rest before school. Various studies have found that the average hours of sleep needed for teens ages 14 and 17 is 8 to 10 hours. While this is common knowledge, studies show that only 12-15% of teens in this age range actually get the recommended hours of rest. 

“I get around 6 hours of sleep,” junior Michael Collado said. “I usually procrastinate with my homework so I delay my work until late at night.”

There are many things that influence how many hours of sleep people receive. Children want their playtime to last longer. Adults choose leisure time instead of an extra hour or two of rest. Teenagers sacrifice their sleep for homework, good grades, and screen time.

“I only sleep for 5 hours or so,” junior Julio Meza said. “Mostly because I’m either texting someone. I also stay up late watching ‘The Office.’”

Sleep deprivation is harmful in many ways. For one, it increases frustration and leads to a change in mood, but more importantly, it limits memory and concentration skills and has been linked to lower grades.

“Sleep is necessary for the developing bodies of teens and children,” scientist Alison Pearce Stevens said in Science News for Students. “When we fall asleep, hormones are released throughout the body to repair damaged cells. Your immune system uses sleep as a time to ramp up its fighting of infections or how it responds to a recent vaccine.”

There have also been surveys and polls that lead scientists to believe that lack of sleep leads to depressing moods and vice versa, creating a never-ending cycle. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), 58% out of 1602 teenagers said they felt depressed, anxious, and stressed out, and often lost hours of sleep to continue working on assignments or other activities. 

“I am a little sleepy in the mornings,” Collado said. “I stay up late doing my homework. This on top of my difficulty falling asleep causes me to stay up later than I should.”  

There are plenty of ways to prevent sleep deprivation. Doctors suggest dark room with little to no light allows people to sleep faster. Avoiding caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime allows for easier rest. Doctors also warn against taking naps longer than two hours or after 3 pm. 

“Rather than relying on naps, people should try to improve their nighttime sleep,” psychologist Karen Jakubowski said in Science News for Students. “[Teens] should take 30 to 60 minutes to wind down before bed. Put your phone away and avoid blue light from computers.