Effects of Sleep Deprivation


Photo by Mathias Appel

Gracie Schoell , Staff Writer

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 87 percent of high school students get less than eight hours of sleep per night.  The consequences of lacking sleep are severe: your chance of getting depression increases, you are more likely to suffer from anxiety, you are in more danger when you drive, are more likely to get bad grades, and even attempt or commit suicide.  

Between extracurricular activities, homework, and the early start time of most high schools, teens are finding it nearly impossible to get the amount of sleep they need in order to perform their best.  Teens naturally feel tired at a later time in the night than they did when they are younger, and this is biological, yet with the early mornings that most schools have established, it is difficult to get into a comfortable sleep cycle.  

In a survey done at Bingham High School, only 16 out of 97 students (or 16.5 percent) got the amount of sleep they felt they needed in order to function their best, and only 20 out of 97 students (or 20.6 percent) got eight or more hours of sleep a night, which is considered the sufficient amount of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.  As many as 37 out of the 97 students (or 38.14 percent) got five hours of sleep or less per night, with some getting as little as two hours of sleep.

Dr. William Dement, the founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, said “I think high school is the real danger spot in terms of sleep deprivation.  It’s a huge problem.  What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could perform.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, those who get less than sufficient sleep are more likely to be involved in risky behaviors, such as physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, and fighting.  

However, even one extra hour of sleep a night can have a big impact on us positively.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, seven schools in Minneapolis moved to a later start time, beginning at 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:25 a.m.  There were profound positive effects on the students, including attendance and enrollment rates rising, students getting five or more extra hours of sleep per week, and student-reported depression going down.

Dr. Judith Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, said, “These kids [teenagers] are essentially in a permanent state of jet lag.”  Between getting up early on the weekdays and then sleeping in on the weekends, it makes teens unable to set a healthy sleep cycle.  

Not getting enough sleep can also have severe consequences for not only your present health but your future health.  Shakira Suglia of the School of Public Health at Columbia University said, “Lack of sleep in your teenage years can stack the deck against you for obesity later in life.”  Mary Carskadon, Ph.D. and graduate student at Stanford, spent several summers observing the sleep habits of teens.  She said “At some point, we are going to have to confront this as a society.  For the health and well-being of the nation, we should all be taking better care of our sleep, and we certainly should be taking better care of the sleep of our youth.”