Sleep Deprivation1 Essay

This essay has a total of 1876 words and 8 pages.

Sleep Deprivation1

Teenagers grow more and more busy by the minute. Unfortunately, this means less and less
sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause many serious negative side effects to teenagers’
already harried lives. These side effects can range from such common problems as
sleepiness during the day to more serious problems such as headaches, to the most extreme
effect of all—death. Misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, sleep deprivation is one of the hardest
disorders to detect. Truthfully, the only way to correct it is by always getting
sufficient sleep, but the environment in which an adolescent exists often makes to quest
for sufficient sleep impossible.

Sufficient sleep is defined as “the amount necessary to permit optimal daytime
functioning.” (Dahl, 1) Some studies suggest adolescents need at least eight hours of
consecutive sleep, but many indicate that 9.2 hours of sleep is truly needed. But the
average teenager only sleeps about six hours on any given school night. And students at
private schools generally sleep even less. Some students in upper level courses who are
also involved in many extracurricular activities sleep as little as two hours a night many
times during the week, if at all. (Sinnott) Private school students are preparing for
the college world, but not even college demands only two hours of sleep per night.

Sleep deprivation has many impacts on a teenager’s life. These impacts are generally
described in four categories: sleepiness; tiredness; negative effects on mood, attention,
and behavior; and exaggerated impact on problems, both emotionally and behaviorally.
These categories are only the first layer of an extremely complex disorder, a disorder in
which it is difficult to identify actions, reactions, and causes.

The first category, sleepiness, is often attributed with brief mental lapses in which a
student in school appears to be awake, but actually is mentally asleep, also know as
daydreaming. Sleepiness can actually progress to the next step, where the student may
actually, physically fall sleep. These microsleeps (Freyer, 2) not only decrease a
student’s school performance, but can lead to motor vehicle accidents. It is estimated
that more than 200,000 motor vehicle accidents that occur each year are caused by or are
related to drowsy drivers at the wheel. Sleepiness also creates difficulties in getting
up on time, which further manifests conflicts with parents and teachers. (Falling asleep
in class does not generally endear students to their teachers.)

The second category, tiredness, is a feeling of fatigue or decreased motivation.
Tiredness makes tedious tasks more difficult to accomplish and even begin. The more sleep
deprived a student, the less motivated (s)he becomes. Tiredness is less evident while
performing exciting energetic, “fun” activities, but conversely it is extremely obvious in
tasks deemed boring or repetitious. Tiredness is most problematic when attempting
long-term goals, such as reading or studying uninteresting topics, when there is not an
immediate consequence, such as a test, at hand. In these cases, motivation, is not only
decreased, but often, simply, does not exist.

The third category involves the impact the lack of sleep can have on the ability to
control attention, mood, and behavior. Generally, teenagers are already moody and easily
frustrated due to the changes in hormone levels due to puberty. Add lack of sleep to that
equation and the same teenager may seem overly excited, impulsive, or silly. They also
may become angry, destructive, or abusive. Or they may be incredibly forgetful, passive
and withdrawn, or overly emotional. Basically, reactions vary from teenager to teenager,
but one constant is that the more sleep deprived a teenager becomes the more likely s(he)
is to be at odds with teachers or parents.

This leads to the fourth category: impact of sleep deprivation on problems of teenagers,
such as those caused by life or family. Emotional problems can create difficulties in
getting to sleep and waking on time, which leads to conflicts. The impact from these
conflicts is greater because of the lack of sleep. For example, if faced with a
frustrating task, a sleep-deprived teenager is more likely to become angry or aggressive.
And with the added social pressures on teenagers today—such as drugs, violence, divorce,
peer pressure—the likelihood of anger increases exponentially. With the divorce rate
growing in this country teenagers are enduring greater family chaos in the home, which
only adds to the already highly stressful life.

Sleep deprivation can cause many other disorders in teenagers—while they are adolescents
and later in life. Often teenagers need to be alert and awake for longer periods of time
than their bodies will allow. The most obvious and easily accessible cure is caffeine.
This wonder drug enables many teenagers that extra boost to finish an essay late at night
or wake up for a seven am lecture. Unfortunately, caffeine is not just an aid to a
teenager’s hectic schedule. This drug greatly harms growing minds and bodies. Sleep
deprivation can cause headaches, some minor, others as drastic as migraines. Adding
caffeine to this, teenagers endure many headaches lasting entire days. Some studies have
found that lack of sleep actually inhibits the ability to perform daily metabolic
functions. Some metabolic functions include processing and storing carbohydrates, which
are one of the main sources of energy for the body. Because carbohydrates are not being
processed, teenagers are not storing the correct type of energy producer, thus relying on
caffeine to replace it. Caffeine can cause other side effects such as withdrawal
headaches because it is an addictive drug. And that is a major societal problem. Sleep
deprivation, in teenagers, is spawning addictions. Not only addictions to something as
relatively minor as caffeine, but to more serious substances. Once a body has been
exposed to compromising effects of addiction, it is more susceptible to other addictions.
Other addictions also are more prominent in sleep deprived teenagers. Cigarettes, become
popular, and the nicotine, an extremely addictive drug, can have a similar effect on the
sleep pattern of a teenager as caffeine. And some symptoms of caffeine addiction—such as
jitteryness—can actually be symptoms of often misdiagnosed conditions such as Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder, to name a few.
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