Sleepless in Miami: No rest for the week

My unrelenting alarm clock yells at me at exactly 5:50 p.m. every single morning. It roars for me to get out from under my soft, warm, cozy bed sheets and begin my normal daily activities. After finally mustering up the strength to roll out of bed, I head out the door for school. I consider myself lucky if the night before I got to sleep for more than four hours. The rest of the day is usually spent trying to fight back yawns and keep my eyes open.

Most high school teenagers are trapped in a perpetual cycle of drowsiness and fatigue. Recent research has proven that this pattern of sleep deprivation is extremely destructive to a developing mind.

The role that a good night’s sleep plays in the maintenance of a happy and healthy lifestyle is vital. During sleep, your brain gears up for the next day’s activities, it forms new neurological pathways to learn and retains both short-term and long-term information. Sleep also affects your physical health. Everything from growth and development of muscle mass and cell repair to the hormones that regulate metabolism and hunger levels are affected in some way during slumber.

According to Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D, from Brown University School of Medicine, teenagers need as much sleep as they did when they were small children, usually eight and a half to nine and a quarter hours every night. When teens do not get enough sleep to be able to carry out basic functions such as coping with stress and decision making, they can be drawn to form destructive habits. The National Sleep Foundation found that “Young people who do not get enough sleep night after night carry a significant risk for… emotional and behavioral problems such as irritability, depression, poor impulse control and violence; health complaints; tobacco and alcohol use; impaired cognitive function and decision-making; and lower overall performance in everything from academics to athletics.”

Sleep deprivation not only negatively affects people personally; it can also place those around them in danger. People such as students traveling to school early in the morning, are very likely to be involved in car crashes linked to drowsy driving. A study from North Carolina found that 55 percent of crashes involve a driver that fell asleep at the wheel were caused by people under 25. One possible solution to this detrimental issue lies within the establishment of a school schedule that is conducive to the amount of sleep a teenager requires nightly. “The less sleep I get, the more tired I am in school, causing me to pay less attention,” junior Santino Di Capua said.

Carskadon suggests that because the most significant concern of the education system is to foster human potential, the system should be addressing the biological needs of students to ensure that happens.