Recent studies help scientists to better understand the importance of sleep during childhood and adolescence years. The deprivation of sleep in modern society is having a catastrophic impact on health, wellness, even the safety and education of teens and children.
Sleep and Learning
When we sleep, our brain does an important job. It registers memories and knowledge created during the day and it finds connections with our old memories and experiences. For young kids, good quality sleep is essential to save the daily learned information at school. Sleep is the most important factor for good health and academic performance of younger children and teenagers alike.
Sleep Deprivation of Teenagers
Sleep deprivation and insomnia are very common in teenage years due to:
- Long hours of exposure to blue light and electro-magnetic fields from their environment
- Staying up late and waking up early to catch the school time on weekdays
- The irregularity of sleep pattern from hormonal fluctuations
- Lack of physical activity during the day
- Mood disorders, depression and anxiety
- Genetically coded to be a late-night sleeper
- Extreme use of cell phones, video games and computers
- Using stimulants, alcohol or drugs impairing normal sleep cycles
- Thinking having long sleep is a sign of weakness or not being popular
- Partying and hanging out until early morning hours with peers
Harmful Effects of Sleep Disturbance
The harmful effects of sleep disturbances are stronger in adolescence because their brains are still developing. Sleep deprived teens show serious health, behavioral and social problems. Deprived sleep and insomnia can cause daytime drowsiness, irritability, poor judgement and memory problems, which all lead to poor academic performance of the teens. Some of these consequences are long lasting.
Sleep problems impact memory registration, therefore creating more forgetful teens who can’t learn new things. It also effects immune systems, making teenagers more vulnerable to different diseases.
One clinical study from the UK showed sleep problems in teen years are a risk factor for anti-social and criminal activities in adulthood. Other studies also have shown that sleep deprivation limits some functions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain helps regulate attention levels, empathy, as well as control impulsiveness and emotional behaviours.
The parents, educators are need to be alarmed when the teens show sign of insomnia. They should search for safe ways to help teens get more sleep to improve their mental and physical health, academic and social performance.
Natural Sleep Patterns and Productivity
Recent studies show if teens are left to follow their naturally preferred sleep patterns, they become much more productive. Pushing teens too far out of their natural clock can lead to more serious sleep disorders. That can have many negative physiological consequences, even their sensitivity to insulin and glucose changes, which can cause weight gain.
Changing the school routine to late mornings for night owls shows significant improvement on teen’s health and wellness. Recently, some high schools are starting later hours of the day for better life and performance of sleep deprived teens.
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