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Snooze or Lose

We all know that young children need tons of sleep, so we enforce bed times to ensure that they get all they need to stay healthy. As children mature and they get too old for bedtime, we forget that they are still growing and need to get enough sleep if they are going to stay healthy and happy. Teenagers need more sleep than adults do. In their teenage years, changes brought on by puberty and growth requires young adults to sleep for 9 hours a night as opposed to the 6 to 8 recommended for adults.

Circadian rhythms are the body’s natural biological rhythms which are governed by expose to natural light. Circadian rhythms are the chemical, behavioural and physiological changes that occur in our bodies throughout the day. Circadian rhythms help us to get up in the morning or fall asleep at night. When these rhythms are disturbed and this, in turn, disrupts sleep patterns, it seriously compromises your child’s ability to concentrate at school.

Sleep deprivation leads to a plethora of symptoms including memory deficits, an inability to concentrate and delayed responses. It also negatively affects your child’s immune system and renders them vulnerable to diseases they are exposed to at school. Children who don’t get enough sleep will be sick more often and miss school. Not getting enough sleep before exams can also severely impair performance on the exam itself.

A survey by the National Sleep Foundation saw some disturbing statistics with 60% of high school students reporting extreme daytime fatigue with 25% falling asleep in class at least once a week. The main reason for this was that the average high school student got 6.5 hours of sleep per night; way below the required 9 hours recommended.

A University of Tel Aviv lecturer, Dr. Avi Sadeh, conducted a study to find out just how much sleep deprivation affected academic performance. His findings were shocking; “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.” What this means practically is that a sleepy eighth grader will perform academically closer to a sixth grade level.

What this spells for many high schools is a need to start later, allowing students more time to sleep in the morning. It also means that students who stay up late to cram before an exam are less likely to perform well than those who get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to health problems, obesity, depression and stress. The body needs its sleep in order to restore and heal. Make sure that your teenager is getting their beauty sleep every night, especially before exams.