Picture a normal school day. Many teens are waiting for their bus in the early, dark morning. They rub sleep out of their eyes and yawn. They look tired, as if they could go back to sleep at any second. This is the case with many teens across our country. Research says that only 15% of teens get the necessary amount of sleep recommended by sleep experts, which is about nine hours daily. Why is sleep so important? Well, a lack of sleep can do many things to teens today, not just to their health, but to their overall performance in many of their daily activities.
A major released study has found a correlation between sleep and high performance in different school subjects. The study shows that a lack of sleep causes the most variability in performance in math, a little less variability in French, and the least variability in English. This means that students who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to perform worse in math than in other subjects. So if you are not doing well in math, improving your sleep habits may help you. Additionally, students perform worse on tests and cannot focus as much when they are lacking sleep. Virginia Wei, a 10th grade student, said that, “Lacking sleep means that I don’t perform as well academically as I could. I feel like my logical thinking processes get impaired when I have less sleep. For example, I once was so tired during a test that I got a basic concept wrong and ended up failing the test, even though I actually knew how to do it correctly.” If students sleep more, then they tend to do better. Virginia also says, “Even 6 hours probably isn’t enough, since it’s less than the recommended 8-10 hours. On the rare occasion that I do feel fully rested, I do better.” So if you want to do improve your academic performance, changing sleeping habits is the best solution.
Additionally, sleep can have an effect on other activities, such as sports. Studies have found that sleep deprivation decreases cardio power significantly, but what is interesting is not the decrease in the physical strength itself, but how sleep plays a role in it and what else happens. Emily Lin, a sophomore, says that, “When I am tired, I have less energy, so in athletics I find myself slower and weaker and I can’t perform as well. I can’t run as fast, I have worse endurance, and my lungs are less powerful.” This is in line with the study, showing that people our age experience this effect of less sleep in athletics as well, and the time of day that someone sleeps also has an effect on their athletic performance. One study on this topic was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, which had three test groups, one group that got a full 7.5 hours of sleep, another group that got four hours of sleep at the start of the night, and one group that got four hours of sleep at the end of the night. The group without deprivation had a stronger performance in the afternoon than in the morning, and the group that woke up earlier in the night had the worst afternoon performance out of the three. There was also interestingly no difference between the groups’ morning performances. This shows that afternoon performance has to do with the time that you go to sleep as well as the amount of hours of sleep you get. Performance seems to get worse the longer you are awake, and it also gets worse with the less sleep you receive. So make sure to rest as soon before and as much as you can before a big game to have a better performance.
Sleep can also impact social alertness and behavior. Recent brain studies report that sleep deprivation boosts levels of some chemicals in the brain called adenosine and acetylcholine, which makes brain cells less likely to fire, promotes sleepiness, and suppresses arousal. This makes people less responsive to the outside world. Studies have also shown that when people are sleep deprived, their moral judgment and decision-making skills are impaired, they have a harder time dealing with other people and being sensitive to others, they are more impulsive, and they react more negatively when things don’t go their way. These kind of behaviors are generally caused by the slowness of the emotional centers of the brain caused by sleep deprivation, which prevents more constructive social interactions. These kind of behaviors tend to get worse as you get less sleep because more temporary damage is done to the brain. To feel more socially engaged, you should aim for more sleep to be able to respond to others.
Sleep affects many activities, some more so than others. A good goal is to aim for the maximum amount of sleep and to sleep later and wake up later rather than sleep earlier and wake up earlier, regardless of the amount of sleep. Generally, if you follow this advice, you can increase your performance in activities around school, improve yourself, and feel more energized.