One of the primary problems among today’s students is sleep deprivation. This issue contributes to short and long term effects that impact a student’s physical and mental health as well as their academic career. There are many causes for this problem such as school-related reasons and decisions made in a student’s personal life. However, despite the negative effects, there are some possible solutions that can help students become better rested.
There are many factors in a student’s everyday life that lead up to sleep deprivation, and they may not even realize it. One biological effect is the shift in a teen’s sleep schedule. This is due to the timing in which the brain produces melatonin. Teenagers typically experience a shift of about two hours, which means that they tend to go to sleep and wake up two hours later than they had before puberty.
Other factors that involve students staying up late include extracurricular activities, homework, and being on social media. Many of these extracurricular activities such as sports or clubs often occur during after or out of school hours, and some of them, especially sports, can last until late in the evening or even night, and some homework assignments can take hours to complete. When students get free time from these things, many of them choose to spend hours on social media or playing video games instead of getting sufficient rest.
Another significant factor is school start times. Many schools have made their start times earlier, which has contributed to even more tiredness in students. However, some schools have made their start times later, and research has shown that these schools have seen beneficial results such as higher grades, test scores, and fewer tardies. One student, Neil Gregory, junior, says, “I think school plays a part in sleep deprivation because it forces kids to get up earlier, so they can get to school on time. I think this school would benefit if we started at nine instead because I think we would sleep better and be able to learn more.”
No matter what the cause may be, sleep deprivation can contribute to many physical effects, some being very serious, that negatively impact a student’s daily life. Some of the most common and obvious signs of sleep deprivation include irritability, a great deal of yawning, and fatigue throughout the day. However, not all signs are as immediate or obvious, and this insufficient rest can target all major systems of the body. It affects the nervous system by making it harder to concentrate or learn, and because of a decrease in coordination, the sleep deprived are also at a greater risk for accidents, which could vary from tripping and falling to something much worse like a car wreck. Without enough sleep, the immune system is unable to build up its defenses against illness, so the likelihood of becoming sick or developing conditions such as heart disease or diabetes is possible. Sleep deprivation impacts the respiratory system by making it easier to contract respiratory infections and cause already existing conditions to worsen, and this also affects the digestive system by stimulating one’s appetite and possibly leading to obesity. Another major system affected is the cardiovascular system. Since sleep is required to keep processes involving the heart and blood vessels healthy, a lack of it can make these things harder to heal, and it puts people at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack, or stroke. Sleep deprivation also impacts the endocrine system by negatively affecting hormone production, which, in turn, affects the proper building and repairing of muscles, cells, and tissues.
There are also many significant mental effects of sleep deprivation that can affect students now and in their future. Students that are not getting enough rest are likely to experience short term side effects such as mood swings or impatience. If this deprivation continues, it can lead to much more serious issues such as anxiety, depression, paranoid or suicidal thoughts, and even hallucinations. Another possible effect is microsleep which is when a person uncontrollably falls asleep anywhere from seconds to minutes without being aware of it. “In our country, we have record levels of anxiety, depression, and suicide rate. Professionals have theorized that this has to do with social media, but recent studies have shown that it is more so the sleep deprivation coming from social media rather than the social media itself. This is a huge problem in schools. There have been decades of study on how negative sleep deprivation is on the brain. A child’s brain that has been up all night is not ready for the school day,” said Mrs. McAvoy, English teacher. Abby Gasperson, sophomore, said, “Sleep deprivation mentally affects people because without the right amount of sleep, your body can’t function to its full potential.”
All of these physical and mental effects that sleep deprivation brings can ultimately lead to students having a negatively affected academic performance. Teenagers that suffer from being deprived of sleep are more prone to feeling drowsy and falling asleep in school, having poor or failing grades, or becoming frequently absent. Teens that drive can be at a greater risk for falling asleep behind the wheel to and from school. “When a child is sleep deprived, they can become grumpy and act out and get in trouble in school, and if a child is too sleepy to engage in the lesson, it compromises the learning. If you are too tired, you are not going to learn,” says Mrs. McAvoy again.
Despite all of the negative effects, there are some possible solutions to this problem. Some of these solutions include keeping a consistent sleep schedule with the correct amount of sleep and turning off electronic distractions such as televisions and computers before bedtime. Another solution includes avoiding tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and caffeine. Ms. Courtney Sheets, psychology teacher, says, “When you are sleep deprived, you don’t remember things as easy, and you are emotionally cranky. I think a solution for this would be creating a more balanced life between school, sports, homework, and work.”
For more information about this topic, you can visit www.nationwidechildrens.org, www.livescience.com, childmind.org, or www.healthline.com