Call it Generation Groggy. In the US, at least once a week, 28% of high
school students fall asleep in class, and 22% fall asleep doing homework,
according to the survey released last week by the US National Sleep
According to Amy Wolfson, sleep researcher and associate
professor of psychology at College of the Holy Cross, that is the tip of the
iceberg as "you know they aren't alert before they fall asleep and it is
very alarming to me."
Sleep deprivation among youth is caused not only by puberty, which
triggers changes in one's sleep cycle but also by environmental and
lifestyle factors such as early school stars, a taste for caffeinated drinks
and bedrooms that are full of sleep-postponing temptations such as cell
phones, computers and televisions sets, sleep experts say.
According to Dr Judy Owens, an expert in pediatric sleep disorders in
Rhode Island, this is not all biological. The survey also showed that 97%
had at least one electronic device in their rooms, which is a big problem.
Researchers at other universities found plenty of evidence in their
survey that adolescents were falling far short of recommended nine hours of
sleep. Only about one in five adolescents between the ages of 11 and 17 gets
the recommended nine hours of sleep per night and about half get less than
eight hours on school nights. The total hours of sleep also declined with
age. Sixth graders slept an average 8.4 hours per night while high school
seniors slept 6.9 hours, two hours less than recommended. Young people are
paying for the consequences, both academically and in terms of personal
health problems, the researchers said.
For instance, adolescents who get less sleep get worse grades than their
pees who get at least nine hours of sleep. Eighty percent of the well-rested
subjects reported getting As and Bs in school.
Also, 28% of respondents reported they were too tired to exercise.
Exercise is sorely missing in man children's lives these days with sports
giving way to more sedentary activities such as watching TV or playing on
the computer. Many children also may be too busy with other "more important
pursuits" such as extra classes and enrichment classes to be involved in
Owens noted that many studies have reported that the fewer hours of sleep
an adolescent gets, the more likely they are to be obese or to suffer from
mood disorders. Also, about half of teenage drivers in the survey said that
they have driven while drowsy n the past year.
Owens said that there are things that parents and their children can do
to help kids get a better night's sleep. Adolescents should not drink
caffeine after lunch and should not have electronic devices in their
bedrooms. They should stick to a regular sleep schedule with an adequate
number of hours of sleep and try not to deviate much from it on weekends.
However, for some adolescents, making major changes in their sleep cycles
may require extra help. Light therapy and the hormone melatonin sometimes
can be used to restore more normal sleep cycles in young night owls,
according to researchers.