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Negative Consequences of Sleep Deprivation in Teens

We regularly post information about the negative consequences of sleep deprivation due to Sleep Apnea. But with the start of school for a lot of our clients, this is timely information about why your teenager may be so cranky. It’s not just Algebra.

High school students and their parents constantly quibble over waking up early for school or, by noon on weekends, I remember how hard it was to get them going for school.

classroom

The National Sleep Foundation reports high school teens (between 14-17 years) require 8-10 hours of sleep, which can be as much as 3 hours more than adults do. As early teens mature into high school age, their natural biologic “clock” is set to have a delayed sleep time. It’s “normal” for them to not be tired until 11pm. When you factor needing 10 hours of sleep, they really do have trouble waking for early school times and can easily end up becoming chronically sleep deprived.  (Wolfson & Carskadon, 1998). The wake-sleep cycle begins to shift in the high school years when their “sleep chemistry” keeps them up later and wanting to sleep in later than at any other age. This cycle begins to change into the adult wake/sleep cycle in the early 20’s and is also driven by entering the workforce.

Many high school districts around the US and world are beginning to acknowledge this and there is a push for later start times for high school students to accommodate the natural biologic rhythm of teens. Schools that have made the transition are showing higher test scores and less behavioral problems in their students. However, the pushback against this is immense due to parental work schedules, high school athletics (being delayed until later in the evening if the school-day is shifted several hours later and insufficient time for homework after sports) teachers resistance, as well as other factors.

 

The NSF reports common symptoms for sleep deprived teens can manifest as:

  • Limiting the ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems. You may even forget important information like names, numbers, your homework or a date with a special person in your life.
  • It may make you more prone to pimples. Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems.
  • Lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as yelling at your friends or impatience with your teachers or family members
  • Cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods, like sweets and fried foods that lead to weight gain
  • Heighten the effects of alcohol and possibly increase use of caffeine and nicotine
  • Contribute to illness, not use equipment safely or driving drowsy

 

We can’t attribute bad behavior to sleep deprivation for all teens, but it CAN increase the tendency for bad behaviors if they are chronically sleep deprived. Imagine only getting 4-5 hours of sleep for days on end! It’s easy to see how the behavior would naturally manifest over time.

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