In Deep Sleep
By Andrea Genovese Soares (November 5, 2002)
Itís 8:30 p.m. The chances of finishing your homework before midnight are very slim, and you know that you have a tough English essay test tomorrow that you have to be awake for. Do you sleep, or finish your homework and risk dozing off during your English exam?
Teenagers are faced with this conflict almost daily. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need on average 9 ¼ hours of sleep a night but are actually getting about two hours less. Research suggests that we are probably the most sleep-deprived population group in the US.
Have you noticed that a lot of students just canít keep from falling asleep during that early-morning class? Well, 20 percent of all high school students fall asleep in school, especially in the morning. The reason for this is that in the morning the external signals, such as activity, light, or even caffeine, havenít kicked in yet. As the day goes on, we become more and more awake. So, itís not a surprise that research has proven that teen drivers are involved in more sleep-related accidents than any other group of people. Letís face it, our times have changed. Have you tried going to sleep early after sleeping late for a week? Itís almost impossible! Your body is not used to going to sleep that early, so, youíll twist and turn in bed, but you will only fall asleep as late as youíre used to doing.
Have you noticed how the amount of sleep you are able to get decreases every year in high school? Research shows that while progressing through the teen years, we need more and more sleep. So, letís think, we need more sleep and we are getting less. That doesnít sound healthy to me! To aggravate things even more, we often try to fix it with the famous "make-up sleep" during the weekend. Hereís some news for you, the extra sleep in the weekend doesnít make up for the sleep you failed to get that week. The reason for this is that sleep has its stages, and REM (rapid eye movement), the dream stage, is a very crucial stage that starts when youíve had four hours of sleep already. So, sleeping two hours in the weekend is much different than if you had added two more hours after your first four.
Iíve tried following all the recommendations for being "sleep-smart," but between rehearsals, homework, papers, tests, and other time-consuming activities, itís incredibly challenging. The more obvious recommendations are: avoid exercising right before bed, the parent-friendly "Get enough sleep," and be consistent with your sleeping schedule. Hereís a tough one: scratch "all-nighters" from your vocabulary. Letís get real, having a consistent sleeping schedule is virtually impossible, but researchers recommend not to sway from your schedule, especially not for two nights in a row. They ask that if you have to do so, donít delay your bedtime by more than an hour and wake up the next day within two or three hours from your regular schedule. If you feel tired during the day, take an early afternoon nap, which should be limited to 20-30 minutes.
Then there are some recommendations that arenít so obvious. Did you know that getting into bright light as early in the morning as possible and avoiding lights in the evening help signal your brain that youíre starting and ending your sleep cycle? After lunch, not having colas, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, or other stimulants, avoids the disruption of sleep. Also, try not doing heavy reading, studying, or playing computer games within an hour of your bedtime. Falling asleep with your TV on is a terrible practice because the light will inhibit going to sleep and stimulate your eyes.
Do you think that lack of sleep only causes those ugly looking pouches under your eyes? Well, you are wrong. It causes problems ranging from depression to skin disruptions. You can look tiered, feel depressed, irritable, and angry. Lack of sleep is also associated with impairing your memory, creativity, concentration, good judgment, and your ability to handle complex tasks. So, driving when you can barely keep yourself awake is obviously not a good idea! Lack of sleep can also lead to emotional problems like depression, or skin problems like acne.
As junior Elise Edwards says, "Sleep
comes when it comes." It shouldnít, though. Sleep is very important: itís
nourishment for our psychological and physical health. Donít deprive your
body of it. I know Iím not the one to give advice, but take it from the
facts. We know most of these recommendations; itís just not always possible
to follow every single one.