ZZZ's to A's
Sleep Needs of Adolescents
Symptoms of Sleep Deprovation

Back to the start page                     On to the next section

Information Compiled and Assembled
by Sarah Umberger

Sleep Needs of Adolescents

Imagine you are 16 years old. You look at the clock for the third time in the last hour - it's 11:30 p.m. You toss and turn, trying to get to sleep. You drift off for what seems like seconds, when all of a sudden, your alarm goes off. It's 6:30 a.m. - time to wake up and go to school ("Should Schools Start Later in the Day?").

As children enter puberty, their need for sleep changes; the brain naturally begins to fall asleep around 11 p.m. and begins to wake up around 8 a.m. This natural tendency becomes a problem when combined with the school schedules.

Most teenagers wake up at 6:00 a.m. in order to get to school by 7:15 or 7:30 a.m.; a full two hours earlier than their bodies are ready to be awake. This results in nearly 20% of students falling asleep in the first two hours of the school day. Teenagers are largely sleep deprived due to high schools beginning classes at any time before 8:15 a.m.

Odvard Egil Dyrli quoted one sleep researcher's explanation of the severity of the sleep deprivation, "students are going to bed on California time and getting up on Eastern time; it's like having partial jet lag all the time."

This need for sleep is not merely related to teenagers in the United States; similar studies have been completed on teenagers in Brazil, Italy and Israel, revealing the same figures regarding required hours of sleep for adolescents. This shows that the need for sleep is not culturally linked; it is a natural element of human development.


Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

When teenagers are unable to get enough sleep during the night, it results in a variety of problems. Kyla Wahlstrom wrote in the February 2003 issue of Education Digest, "When routines are upset, it is human nature to react negatively."

The deepest level of sleep is the REM (rapid eye movement) phase. Loss of sleep, specifically in the REM phase, results in memory loss. REM sleep is also known to have an effect on information processing; unintended sleep; increased irritability, anxiety and depression; decreased socialization and humor; mental fatigue and decreased ability to handle complex tasks and creativity.

In a 1999 survey by the National Sleep Foundation, parents reported 60% of children under age 18 complained of being tired and sleepy during the day and 15% admitted to falling asleep in school.

Research has shown that students who struggle or are failing get less sleep than their classmates who are getting A's and B's.

Conflict between teenagers and their parents in regard to waking up late and between teachers and students due to tardiness or sleeping in class can have an effect on the student's emotional state, which can lead to hostility and resentment.

Sleep deprived children and teenagers may exhibit similar symptoms of a child who has ADHD. Children who are diagnosed with ADHD have a higher incidence of sleep deprivation.