It's that time of year again and all over the nation, schools are back in session. Suddenly it all hits you - school, homework, maybe a job, dating, family, sports, and on and on. How on earth can you fit it all in?
Did you notice anything missing in the above list? Right! Sleep. Unfortunately, that one commodity is also often missing from a teen's life. Maybe not entirely, but the majority of teens don't get the hours of sleep they need.
To add to the problem, as a person reaches puberty and the teen years, the body clock (Circadian rhythm) seems to change and even more sleep is needed. Melatonin (the hormone that controls sleep patterns) pours out at a different hour. The desire to sleep hits later in the evening and there's a burning need to sleep later in the morning.
Teens need between 8-1/2 and 9-1/4 hours of sleep. For reasons not fully understood, teens need more sleep than adults do. Plus they need it earlier in the day. Adults start to slow down by ten in the evening, but the internal clock of teens causes them to speed up.
Now, a new study released by University Hospitals Sleep Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, suggests that teenagers who don't get the sleep they need may be at risk for developing high blood pressure (hypertension). This could lead to some really serious problems later in life, including
heart disease and stroke.
The teens with elevated blood pressure either had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Some just were generally poor sleepers.
"Part of the problem is the technological invasion of the bedroom with computers, cell phones and music," Dr. Susan Redline, leader of the study said in a statement to the American Heart Association. "There are teens who text message or listen to music all night, compounded by early school hours. Adolescents need their sleep. Parents should optimize sleep quality for their family with regular sleep and wake times and bedrooms should be kept quiet, dark and conducive to sleep."
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has identified adolescents and young adults (ages 12 to 25 years) as a population at high risk for problem sleepiness based on "evidence that the prevalence of problem sleepiness is high and increasing with particularly serious consequences."
Other troubling consequences of sleepiness are injuries and deaths related to lapses in attention and delayed response times at critical moments, such as while driving, the NIH report continued.
There is no doubt that something will have to be done. Sleep deprived teens are at a risk of serious problems. It seems, to quote an old adage, that "they are trying to burn the candle at both ends." If we are not careful, they may snuff the flame forever.
Published On: August 20, 2008