Lack of Sleep?
Written by Keith B, Master Tutor for Enhanced Prep
How important is sleep for young people? We have seen it all before– students staying up to 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning to work on a paper, presentation, or cram for an exam, then, getting up at 6 am to get ready for school. Students, as well as parents, believe that they can “catch up” on sleep on the weekends. As long as we get the work done, everything will be alright, right?
Unfortunately, these myths are not true. Studies have shown that sleep debt cannot be “paid off” in the future. Our bodies need sleep in order to function correctly, just as we eat and breath to survive. Sleep is an extremely important and often overlooked necessity to our normal living process. Without delving too deeply, sleep has several specific functions: (1) Sleep is the time that your brain needs to download the day’s activities and experiences. The brain needs to properly store and index all your experiences for easy recall and use later. (2) Your body needs sleep in order to renew itself. Metabolic regulation and hormonal regulation are managed during sleep. Additionally, growth occurs while you are sleeping. These steps are necessary to help students manage conflicts and execute complex tasks.
Now, let’s talk about what happens with those late-night work sessions. Remember, one of the functions of sleep is to store and index the day’s activities and experiences. With a growing sleep debt, students cannot effectively process the material they are studying. In essence, most of the material they are “cramming” does not get indexed and they cannot recall it. As a result, students have wasted their time and sacrificed their sleep for very little returns. Students who are staying up to work on a last-minute paper/presentation will have an accumulated sleep debt that will impinge on their cognitive abilities; they will find it much harder to focus and be creative. Furthermore, these deficits do not stop there. Often these students are sluggish during classes and may even find it difficult to interact or participate in class. Ultimately, if they have a major test in school, or even a Standardized test, like the ACT or SAT, students will not be able to perform at the best of their ability.
So, I am sure at this point you are wondering, how much sleep do students really need? It’s likely you are thinking around seven hours should do, right? Wrong. Research has shown that kids in high school need approximately 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep each night.
So, what can we as parents do to help ensure our teenagers are getting all the sleep they need? We will be discussing this very question in our next installment. So, please look forward to our next newsletter.