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wingspan • june 4, 2010

photo illustration by Eric Schreck

Lack of sleep results in academic challenges for students De’Shawn Thomas News Writer

H

e found himself in the strange state of mind between being awake and dreaming. Dozing off while sitting in the cold, uncomfortable desk and listening to his civics and economics teacher, he realized he was laughing. Not knowing what was so funny, he snapped out of it. Junior Camen Royse knew that he hadn’t gotten enough sleep the previous night. “I have trouble getting to sleep sometimes, and it causes me to be tired in school,” Royse said. “Even when I get enough sleep, I still seem tired.” Not getting the recommended amount of sleep can have a serious impact. Every minute of sleep can be critical. In a recent article in The New Yorker Magazine called “Snooze or Lose,” the results from studies said essentially the same exact thing: a child’s number of sleep hours is directly linked to his or her academic performance. “Over-stimulated, over-scheduled kids are getting at least an hour’s less sleep than they need,” the article said. “A deficiency that, new research reveals, has the power to set their cognitive abilities back years.” As reported by the American Sleep Disorders Association (ASDA), the average teenager needs between nine and 10 hours of sleep per night because hormones that are critical to growth and sexual maturation are released mostly during slumber. Yet studies show that teenagers generally get an average of only 7.5 hours of sleep per night. “On school nights if I’m lucky I’ll get up to seven and a half hours,” Royse said. “It ranges from six to seven and a half hours at most.” Like Royse, only 4 percent of students at West report that they get the recommended amount of

sleep. Not many students realize how large of an might keep students from falling asleep in class. impact it has on their academic abilities. “I fall asleep in school all the time, not in The American Thoracic Society (ATS) report- every class but quite often. Before lunch I’m aled that only 16 percent of teenagers said they reg- ways really tired, but after lunch I’m usually more ularly had enough sleep, and 70 percent thought awake,” sophomore Malia Caldwell said. “I defitheir grades would improve if they slept more. In nitely sleep through first and second period most an interview with the News Herald, Dr. Syed Malik, of the time.” a Blue Ridge Health Care pulmonologist who speAt many high schools in Japan, there is a desigcializes in sleep disorders, spoke about the issue nated nap time when teachers dim the lights and of sleep deprivation in youth. put on classical music. These schools saw a large “This is a significant issue. increase in test scores. “I strongTypically with adults, you’d see ly support nap time in school. signs of sleepiness. With youngNobody actually gets enough If you study less er people, it’s actually worse,” sleep,” Caldwell said. “I think that and get more Malik said. “As they feel sleepy, the students would really apprethey tend to become more hyciate it, and in return they would sleep, you’ll peractive, which in turn leads to better in class.” actually do better do behavior problems, more tan On top of school work and actrums and more outbursts.” tivities, there are not many hours on your test than Teenagers’ brains are in left for sleeping. “I haven’t really if you stayed up growth stage until the age of 21, tried other ways to get more sleep. all night studying I’m not bad when it comes to proand the majority of that growth occurs while they sleep, so even crastinating my homework, but it for it. a short reduction in sleep time, gets to the point where you’re tryeven as little as 15 minutes, can ing to finish up your homework Kim Berry have a detrimental impact. and you know you need to get school nurse After a long day of class, to bed,” Royse said. “I set aside teens need even longer sleep time so that the time to pray before I go to sleep, and by the time brain can properly process and store informa- I turn off the light my mind is swirling. I’m thinktion. It’s not surprising that more than 40 percent ing about football, I’m thinking about school, I’m of students at West admit to falling asleep in class thinking about everything. It makes it really hard frequently. “I’m just tired; I typically don’t have to get to sleep.” an opportunity to fall asleep in class,” Royse said, Teens don’t realize that sleep might need to “but sometimes I can’t help it. I’ll just fade off.” come first. “I don’t think you should stay up all Two things happen when a student falls night studying because even though you may asleep in class: they miss what is being taught, think you will do better, you probably won’t,” and they lose respect from the teacher. If school school nurse Kim Berry said. “If you study less and started at a time based on sleep cycles, elementa- get more sleep, you’ll actually do better on your ry schools would start before high schools, which test than if you stayed up all night studying for it.”

67%

of students get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night

62%

25%

consume soft drinks or energy drinks every day

drink coffee in the morning before school

61%

have fallen asleep during class

(based on a survey of 340 students)

Health issues caused by lack of sleep among teens Autumn Hardin News Writer

don’t know what the answer to that is because being a part of a team and being involved in sports is very good for you. But it is exhausting because reshman Shawnna Phillips rolls over and hits when you add sports, demanding classes, jobs the snooze button, wishing it was Saturday and family, you don’t have a whole lot of time.” instead of Monday morning after her long, According to CBS News, The National Sleep hectic weekend. She drags herself out of bed Foundation reported that only 20 percent of teenand tries to prepare for the long day ahead. With agers get the recommended nine or more hours of schoolwork, sports and friends, there is not sleep on school nights. enough time in the day for her to “I find that teenagers need 8.5 get a good night’s sleep. to nine hours of sleep a night. Students have “It’s hard when you have a lot In teenage years, your circadian of homework on nights that you rhythms, or natural biological too many things have games or if your schedule clock, that tells you what time to to do in a day is really hectic because in high wake up and when to sleep, tends school if you skip homework, it’s to shift a little bit so you tend to and what ends hard to make it up,” Phillips said. fall asleep later and wake up latup getting “Most teachers don’t take late er,” Berry said. “However, school forgotten about work, and grades come before schedules don’t really work for sports do.” that, so students do need to or shortened is Students have many probcome up with a good schedule as sleep. lems to juggle during school on far as a routine to get themselves most days. They face issues like used to sleeping.” Kim Berry having practice for a sport and Lack of sleep can even have school nurse then getting to work after or forthe same effect as being intoxigetting to study for a test tomorrow. When every- cated with alcohol. According to CBS News, peothing is finally taken care of, it can often be well ple who drive after being awake for 17 to 19 hours past midnight. performed worse than those with a blood alcohol “Students have too many things to do in a level of .05 percent. day and what ends up getting forgotten about or Sleep deprivation affects performance at cut short is sleep,” school nurse Kim Berry said. “I school and work. Those who suffer from a lack of

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sleep may find themselves becoming socially inept and distant from peers, friends and family. “I will sometimes skip a homework assignment or forget to study for a test if I have an away game or if my schedule is busy,” Phillips said. “You have to step up and be mature and just do what you have to get it done because most of the choices you make now will affect your future. It’s OK to miss one or two homework assignments, but it starts to add up.” When students do not get enough sleep, the body is not only physically affected but also mentally. People can become irritable and have a weakened immune system. “A lack of sleep decreases your ability to deal with stress; things that wouldn’t bother you normally when you’re tired or haven’t had enough sleep bother you more,” Berry said. “One of the biggies as far as the body is that it decreases your immune system and extended periods of sleep deprivation cause significant issues with the immune system.” An article, “7 Hidden Ways to Get Better Sleep,” states that the best way to get a well-rested night of sleep is to only use the bed for sleeping, instead of doing homework or other daytime activities while sitting on the bed. “Some of the signs that you’re getting enough sleep is that you wake up naturally and don’t have to be woken up by your alarm clock,” Berry said. “But even if they get nine hours of sleep, students will still probably drag in the morning.”

Students turn to caffeine to stay awake in class Tyler Bice

I

News Writer

t’s Monday morning again. As the bright, luminescent numbers on the face of the alarm clock change to 6 a.m., the device springs to life, wrenching sophomore Quinton Duval out of the pleasant, hazy world of dreams. Duval slogs groggily out of bed, ignoring the splitting headache that seems to permeate his skull. After trudging to the kitchen, he opens up the fridge and takes out his daily pick-me-up: a bottle of store-bought coffee. Within a few minutes of drinking the beverage, he feels his heart speed up and his hands begin to shake a little bit. He’s also awake, alert and ready for school. Known for the stimulating, energizing effects it provides, caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug in the world. It is found naturally in coffee, chocolate and tea, and is added artificially to sodas, energy beverages, supplements, foods and medicines. More than 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in some form each day, and more than half of all American adults consume more than the recommended amount of 300 milligrams per day. “Before I cut back, I would drink either two coffee drinks each morning, or an energy drink in the morning and a coffee drink at night,” Duval said. “I feel much more awake and my heart rate increases when I drink caffeine. It doesn’t make me feel good, just more energized.” Caffeine is the common name for a white, extremely bitter crystalline powder called trimethylxanthine. Medically, it can be used as a stimulant for the body’s cardiac system and as a mild diuretic by increasing the amount of urine produced in the body. Recreationally, caffeine can be taken in relatively small doses to provide a boost of energy and a heightened sense of alertness that usually lasts about four to six hours, although the effects are subjective and can vary in nature and potency from person to person. In higher doses, however, it can produce adverse effects, and many heavy drinkers of caffeine feel as though they “cannot function” without a cup of coffee in the morning. According to school nurse Kim Berry, many high school students use the rush of energy caffeine provides to stay awake while studying for an exam or working on a project, or in the mornings to wake up. “Caffeine is a stimulant, so it’s considered a drug,” Berry said. “Being a stimulant, it’s often used for alertness, waking up, staying awake and things like that.” Cutting back on caffeine can reduce stress and anxiety in a student’s life and help to correct any abnormal sleeping habits that might have developed while consuming it, but breaking the habit is not easy. Students who try to quit caffeine may feel exhausted, depressed and develop headaches, and in the midst of a busy, active life, these symptoms can force the user to run back to it even if he or she has a desire to quit. According to Berry, the key  to avoiding negative withdrawal symptoms is to reduce caffeine consumption gradually. “The best way to break the caffeine consumption cycle is to slowly taper it off,” Berry said. “Try to cut back slowly because you will tend to get a headache and not feel well if you are used to having caffeine and then stop right away. If you drink two cups of coffee a day, cut down to one or switch one for decaf until you’re just drinking a little bit here and there.” Caffeine’s negative effects do not necessarily mean that it is a bad thing. Its stimulating properties can make it a useful tool for staying alert during crucial times. According to both Duval and Berry, the most important thing to remember is to consume it reasonably and responsibly. “It’s all about moderation,” Berry said. “Caffeine is not going to be good for you every day or as a substitute for sleep. Just because you don’t feel tired doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need sleep, and if you keep drinking caffeinated drinks instead of sleeping, you’re eventually going to crash. It’s OK as long as you use it in moderation.”


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