Sleep to succeed: how much sleep do you really need?


Carlie Massey

The advanced theater production cast reenacts what the common classroom looks like in today’s sleepy society.

Carlie Massey, Copy & Online Editor

Students sacrificing their sleep in order to complete daily tasks as well as finishing any homework is not an uncommon theme amongst teens. Students are consistently bogged down with homework, extracurricular activities, expected to have a social life and for some, a job is included into all of that. With everything an average teen is attempting to check off their ‘to-do’ list, it is no wonder why most students rarely get a full night’s rest.

In order for memories to be formed and teens to be completely energized, quality sleep is essential for students.

A study was done in which a group of teens received a maximum of six hours of sleep a night for two full weeks. When tested, students in this group performed as badly as someone who has not slept for over 48 hours.

Lack of sleep also leads to memory loss and the stunting of memory production. While the body is asleep, the mind is busy story away all the memories made from the day, such as what you learned in class, or that funny thing your friend said during lunch. If sleep does not occur, the body does not get a chance to complete this task, thus, memories are not formed and any information learned is lost. Long term lack of sleep can also lead to deficiency in memories being produced due to its inability to perform cognitive functions.

Sleep is responsible for enhancing cognitive function. Without sleep, a person’s mental state is not as acute as it could be. The “Journal of Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine” found that students who did not sleep the night before a test resulted in a score lower than that of those who had slept. As you might have learned in science, your central nervous system is like the “Highway of Information” for your body. Sleep is necessary to keep this organ functioning acutely. However, consistently depriving yourself of sleep disrupts this flow of information. As you sleep, pathways form between neurons inside of your brain. These pathways help you remember the information you have learned throughout the day. Depriving yourself of sleep leaves not only you, but your brain tired, so it is not capable of performing its duties efficiently. Not only is the mind unable to retain old information, it is unable to take in new material as well.

Sleep deprivation also leads to mood swings and inhibits decision making processes as well as limits creativity.

Another reason it is so highly important for teenagers to sleep more is simple – teens are growing. It is throughout sleep that testosterone as well as other growth hormones are being made. Teens are also proven to be more physically active than any other age group. Without sleep, enough energy cannot be produced and teens are left feeling bogged down and unmotivated, leaving them physically drained. A study done by the National Sleep Foundation showed that less than 15% of high school students get the recommended amount of sleep a night – eight hours.

When the body is in its sleeping state, “appetite-regulating hormones” are produced. Some of the hormones include leptin, which can decrease if sleep is not occurring. Due to these hormones not being produced, those who do not sleep enough tend to overeat, gaining fat. Research from the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” provides a study done in 2010. This study showed that sleep deprived subjects ingested 560 calories more than their usual intake. This extra calorie and overall food consumption could lead to 50 more pounds being gained over the course of just one year.

Impairment in one’s athletic performance can also be a result of sleep deprivation. Research completed by the “Associated Professional Sleep Societies” in 2008 found that by increasing the amount of hours of sleep a teen received each night, their performance of athletic ability improved significantly. Lack of sleep when participating in sports leads to slowed physical reflexes and clumsiness.

Sleep is also important for teen drivers. Whether the teenager getting behind the wheel is fifteen with only their permit, or a nineteen year old who has been driving for three years, sleep is essential for a safe driver. Without sleep, the mind is slowed, cognitive abilities are not at their prime, and accidents are more prone. Microsleeping is when the mind falls asleep for only a few seconds or minutes without even realizing it. Microsleep is out of the body’s control, and is very dangerous if the person is driving.

Not only are the short term effects of not sleeping detrimental, the long term ones are even more fatal. A review of 16 studies showed that sleeping less than even six hours a night increases the risk of an early death by 12%.

In another study, it was proven that after receiving only four hours of sleep a night, the subject felt energized throughout the day. However, while the subjects felt energized throughout the day, cognitive abilities were decreased and memories were not as well formed. Not to mention that consistently getting less than the recommended amount of sleep over the course of weeks, months, or years, can be detrimental to one’s health.

Sleep deprivation, if continued for long enough, can lead to hallucinations, impulsiveness, depression, paranoia, and even suicidal thoughts. Those experiencing sleep deprivation may also begin to ‘microsleep’ throughout their day.

In order to receive an appropriate amount of sleep, make arrangements to free up time in order to take care of daily tasks such as taking care of oneself as well as completing homework so being in bed at a proper time is achievable.

Sleep is necessary. Lack of sleep can be detrimental to a teenager’s brain and daily function. While it may seem like it is impossible to break the cycle of an inconsistent sleep schedule paired with reduced hours of sleep, that is simply not true. Solutions to get to sleep at an appropriate time include reading a book, getting in bed at an earlier time, turning off your phone and setting it on the other side of the room. Small things can make a big impact on how rested you feel as you start your day, and they all start with you. My advice to you: get some sleep.