A student’s much-needed Zzz’s can definitely equal A’s!

To the Editor:

For decades, sleep experts believed that people require less and less sleep as they move from infancy to adulthood. What if I told you that these “experts” were wrong?        

Most adolescents, including myself, are becoming busier and busier with increased homework and social pressure as we develop into adults. With such a hectic life, something has to give!

Apparently, that something is sleep. The most significant factors in the teen sleep crisis are busy lifestyles, changing bodily functions, and demanding social lives.

So what could you do? Make up for those lost hours of sleep on the weekends? Or pump yourself up with dangerous amounts of caffeine and energy drinks? No, I didn't think those would work. So what could we do to make sure teens are getting enough sleep?

Sometimes, students are just too busy. And, when teens overwork themselves, it only makes the situation worse.

The student who revises his essay long into the night to get an A+ in English will grasp less of what’s being taught the next day in Algebra. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

The average teenager needs about 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night, but most teens get fewer than 7 ½ hours a night. When you cram soccer practice, a social life, homework, and even a part-time job into your life, it’s hard to fit everything in and get to bed on time.

Additionally, there’s always that one more episode on Netflix, or that one more time looking at your Facebook wall.

When you are sleep deprived, you are as impaired as driving with a blood alcohol content of .08, which is illegal. That can’t be good.

But some might argue that teens need to experience a busy life, because it’s only going to get harder. In reality, overworking yourself is not worth losing such essential sleep.

In fact, adults need about 7 ¾ hours per night, while the average teen needs at least 9 ¼ hours, as I pointed out. So, bottom line: Such a busy lifestyle for teens and the need to sleep a lot don’t mix very well.

During adolescence, puberty is responsible for all of the bodily and mental changes in a teen. The Circadian rhythm is a cycle that is responsible for putting you to sleep and waking you back up.

Melatonin is a hormone that is released from the brain and makes you drowsy and sleepy. When melatonin is released, the Circadian rhythm is activated. The only problem: Most teenagers don’t start to produce melatonin until 11 p.m., so it’s natural that they don’t fall asleep until late into the night.

Further delaying this cycle is teen activity. Having caffeine within five hours of bedtime can keep you from falling asleep, and even dim screens from cell phones and computers release light that tell your brain that it’s daytime, and therefore delays the release of melatonin. So factors such as caffeine, late-night texting, social media, TV, and the Internet activity all mess up your sleep cycle.

Schoolwork also suffers when teenagers lack sleep. Most high schools start at 7:30 a.m., so even though the students are in the classroom, their brains are still on their pillows at home. In a study involving 3,000 high school students, students receiving C’s, D’s, and F’s generally slept 25 minutes less and went to bed 40 minutes later than students who were getting A’s and B’s. So a teen’s much-needed Zzz’s can definitely equal A’s!

These students who got more sleep, in addition to getting higher grades, also reported being less sleepy and being in a better mood. Lack of sleep can cause labile emotions, risky behavior, and poor decision-making. Also, those receiving insufficient sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, and cancer.

Resolved, teens should definitely find ways to get more sleep. Solutions? Well, you could start by setting and sticking to a consistent bedtime. You should also aim to cut out any caffeinated drinks several hours before you go to sleep.

Also, it is recommended that you turn off all electronic devices about 45 minutes before going to bed, and that you don’t try to beat the clock and pull all-nighters. But most importantly, teens should prioritize and organize their time. But out of all of your priorities, getting sufficient sleep should be one of them.

Massoud Sharif