The Science of Snoozing

Sam is a 15-year-old from Montgomery, NJ. She enjoys playing tennis, writing and Community Service. Her favorite subject in school is History.

Sleep. Ever since we were young, we’ve learned that it’s an important necessity in our lives. Yet teenagers seem to be getting less and less.When I surveyed 25 random high school students, almost all of them said that they had gotten less sleep compared to when they were twelve, and the average amount of sleep they received on a weekday was only six hours. This is considered unhealthy, as many sources say that teens need up to nine or ten hours of sleep a night. I will admit that I also fit into this average and don’t get as much sleep as I should. Here are some reasons why sleep is vital not just physically, but mentally and academically as well, and some tips to improve your sleeping:

A Lack of Sleep Can:

Dull your complexion and hair…

We’ve all seen the dark circles and drained faces, and sometimes they’re hard to conceal. However, few have heard that your hair can suffer from a lack of sleep too, as it can lose its lifelessness. This alone makes it clear that they don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing.

Have an opposite effect on your school performance…

I know a lot of my friends who think that, when a big test comes up, they feel the need to stay up till midnight or later to study. I have learned that this actually causes an inverse effect. According to an article in Teen Vogue (Nov. ’09), a lack of sleep can make it difficult to remember things, thus causing poorer grades on tests and falling asleep in class.

Weaken your immune system…

It may not be apparent after two nights of missed sleep, but if you shorten your sleep, you also shorten your body’s ability to fight against germs, leaving you with susceptible to cold and regular flu (I repeat, REGULAR flu). As trivial as it may sound, it can be vital now as temperatures drop and diseases like these are common.

Could mean a shift in your body clock…

As our bodies change, so do our sleep patterns. For example, I used to go to bed incredibly (around nine), when everyone else went to bed closer to ten. Now, I go to bed around eleven to twelve while some go to bed around ten thirty. That being said, when our sleep patterns change, we transition to a late-to-bed, late-to-rise cycle, and some school districts have responded and changed the start and end times of their schools due to this.

Change your personality…

Two of my closest friends are under treatment for insomnia, and when they were exhausted, they seemed to stare off into space, stay silent, or appear irritable, in addition to appearing worn or pale (see number 1). These feelings, too, are not uncommon and, while not extremely detrimental, can still be annoying and hard to get rid of.

Three Quick Tips On Getting More and Better Sleep

  1. Cut the Caffeine: Yes, Starbucks, Coke, and Monster lovers, this means YOU! Many doctors say you should cut caffeine intake before two or three in the afternoon. If you can’t kick your coffee or soda, just ask for decaf.
  2. Limit When You Exercise: This may sound crazy, but according to the Teen Vogue article “Lights Out” (Nov. 09), limiting your exercise to six hours before you go to bed can help you sleep better, as exercise can release endorphins and other feel-good chemicals that can keep you awake and alert.
  3. Keep a Time on How Much TV or Internet You Use: Since TV and Macbook screens can release artificial light, it can be difficult to fall asleep because there is a delay in kick-starting a hormone known as melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.

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