Sleep, Schoolwork, Stress

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Teenagers are stressed out zombies; they work on limited amounts of sleep and are always stressed out about school. At night, they face the same dilemma– sleep or schoolwork. Many students are obsessively compulsive when it comes to getting all of their work done. Choosing sleep over work is not an option to some.

“I never ever decide to just not do homework because that would stress me out more than just getting it done,” junior Mariel Tivoli said.

As much as teenagers would appreciate a good night’s sleep, many teens have unhealthy sleeping patterns and lack sleep because of rapid body changes, busy schedules, active social lives, and incorrect views of sleep according to UCLA Sleep Disorders Center.

Teenagers’ sleep schedules can affect their internal body clocks. The clock controls the circadian rhythms of the body, a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms can cause people to feel sleepy or alert at regular times every day. The clock’s job is to tell a person’s body when it is time to be awake or asleep; everyone’s body has this type of natural timing system. A majority of people begin to feel a mild necessity for sleep during the afternoon, and the need to sleep grows much stronger when night comes around. No matter how much people sleep the night before, everybody’s circadian rhythms will tell them to go to bed at the same time every day. Teenagers’ clocks lack order, and therefore, they are often tired at times of the day that they should be alert.

Dr. Jeffery Young, a sleep, mood, and anxiety disorders psychologist and a school parent, believes that bedtime should not revolve around the clock.

“As a general principle, when you go to sleep should be dictated not by clock time but when someone is actually sleepy so if you are really sleepy and can’t focus on a particular evening then going to bed early and waking up early when you are fresh can be an effective strategy. However, the tendency to be more awake in the late evening can lead to more effective study presuming you can get up at 9:00 a.m. and not be late for school, fat chance of that,” Young said.

Some students find waking up early more beneficial as they are more alert while doing their homework.

“Usually I wake up earlier to do my homework rather than stay up late because if I’m too tired at night, the homework or studying I will do will be useless. I won’t retain any of the information or do my homework correctly if I am half asleep,” sophomore Mae McKagan said.

Tivoli also wakes up early to do her homework; to help her have energy early in the morning, she drinks coffee. Other teenagers stay up late to finish their homework because waking up early for them is difficult.

“I stay up late because I almost cannot ever get up in the morning for some odd reason to study. I just prefer doing all my work at night,” Alyssa Furukuwa said.

In order to have the stamina to stay up late, junior Victoria Plumb sits in a chair rather than her bed when doing homework and keeps a bright light on to avoid falling asleep.

Junior Mia Sandino drinks caffeinated tea. Furukuwa drinks coffee or green tea if she needs caffeine to stay up late.

Young says that caffeine, which is a stimulant, can be used to enhance alertness, but caution needs to be taken as to when students drink it.

“Some of what we advise, is not taking caffeine within five hours of intending bed time as caffeine has about a five and a half hours life… We know from some research that caffeine, like nicotine, blocks the accumulation of adenosine, which is part of the a chemical cascade that signals that sleep is needed so it may be that people who drink excessive caffeine may not build sufficiently high levels of adenosine even if they stop five hours before,” Young said.

Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep to function at their best according to National Sleep Foundation. However, the study reports only 15 percent reported only sleeping eight and a half hours on school nights.

Many students have said they get five to seven hours of sleep; however, many of the students interviewed said they wish they could get the needed amount of sleep.

When sleep is not a priority, illness, aggressive or inappropriate behavior, forgetfulness, acne, increase use of caffeine, over eating, weight gain, and limit ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems may happen. In order to avoid this, making sleep a priority is crucial to teenagers’ health according to National Sleep Foundation.

Furukuwa makes a point go to bed between 11:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. to help her get more sleep than she got during previous school years.

“I usually sleep six to seven hours a night because of my strict “I must actually get sleep in junior year” motto. I don’t know why I didn’t do this freshman and sophomore year, but there’s definite benefits to making sure you actually sleep,” Furukuwa said.

As a result of lack of sleep, many teenagers are extremely moody or suffer from depression according to Better Health Channel.

“Even if I still have homework to finish, I just have to go to sleep sometimes. I am not a morning person at all, so when I don’t get enough sleep, I am very cranky, and it effects my whole day,” Plumb said.

With all the stress of homework and exams, many teenagers suffer from insomnia. When teenagers feel anxious or stressed, trying to relax at night can be difficult.

Young, a sleep, mood, and anxiety disorders psychologist, believes that there is not a large amount of teenagers suffering from insomnia but rather suffering from acute insomnia.

“I would think that there is not a large proportion of teenagers suffering from chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia is different and can come from stress and usually resolves itself when the stress is gone… Also, lying in bed awake and frustrated is not a good thing psychologically,” Young said.

Also known as short-term insomnia, acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks according to WebMD. Causes of acute insomnia include stress, illness, emotional or physical discomfort, environmental factors, some medications, and interferences in normal sleep schedule.

“Sometimes, I have a lot of difficulty falling asleep because I am always thinking about what’s going to be on the test, if I studied enough, and if I understand the material well enough,” Plumb said.