Catching some zzz's

Why are we always so tired?

Why are we always so tired?

October 22, 2002|by Jessica Hanlin

We're going to play a little word game. I'll give you some clues. One syllable - five letters. It's something we do everyday.


Admit it, you had trouble coming up with that one. I know I have trouble remembering what sleep even is. And I'm not alone.

So teens are tired - always. We have all sorts of little quirks that make us our own species, so isn't being sleepy just one of them? Well, studies show that most teenagers are not just sleepy, but sleep-deprived.

Sleep deprivation is not fun. It slows you down, makes it harder to be decisive, and leaves you feeling down right bad. But more than that, it can cause weight control issues, messed up hormone production, irrational anxiety, and make you more susceptible to depression, ADHD, and other psychological disorders.


But nothing really bad is going to happen to me if I miss sleep, right?

Actually, of all car crashes linked to drowsy driving, some 55 percent are caused by people under 24-years-old, and those are often fatal. Also, one study shows that you could die from lack of sleep alone.

Lab rats actually died when they were kept awake for two and a half weeks straight. So while you may not exactly be trying to stay up for more than two weeks at a time, you do have ammo when your parents start yelling at you to get up. You can legitimately say, "I'll die if I don't get five minutes more!"

But lack of sleep is inevitable. We're not going to get more sleep just because we're at risk to harm ourselves (think of all the other activities we do, regardless of personal risks). There are too many friends, jobs, sports and the biggie, - homework - to waste valuable time asleep.

We spend approximately one third of our life sleeping. Think of what could be accomplished if we didn't have to sleep.

But we need to. Sleep revitalizes the mind and body. And repeated studies show that teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep at night, if not 10. Instead, the average student gets between six and seven. By the end of the week, that is a huge sleep deficit that we have to make up for. That's why so many teens sleep even into the afternoon on weekends.

The typical teenagers around here go to bed between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m. When they rise at 7 a.m. or earlier to get to school, they wind up with much less than nine hours.

F.Y.I - Most local teens seem to get more sleep than the national average. Why? It could be linked to our later start time for school. Many schools around the country are catching on that we need more sleep and are delaying the start of high school in the morning.

So what's a kid to do?

The most obvious help seems to be napping. Taking a nap has been shown to help you catch up on sleep but doesn't replace deep sleep. Try to catch a nap, no more than 90 minutes in the mid afternoon. Any longer, and you may have trouble falling asleep at night. The afternoon nap has been shown to sharpen the mind and help concentration.

Teenagers run on a different clock from adults. Sleep patterns generally cycle during a 24-hour period. But teenagers, while programmed to stay up and sleep late, are also running on a 24.5, or as much as a 25-hour clock. That's why the two worlds never seem to match up they don't!

If you have serious trouble sleeping at night, every night, you may want to seek help. There are sleep clinics that can help. It's been proven that even just going to bed 15 minutes earlier can improve your performance.

Most of us are just tired teens, too busy to spend our time worrying about sleep. But look ahead: Winter Break is only two months away.

All I want for Christmas is time to catch up on my zzzzz's.

Jessica Hanlin is a junior at North Hagerstown High School. She can be reached by e-mail at Bubble0430@aol.comZ

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