11- to 22-year-old set (to which, for the purposes of this book, I refer to as teens or adolescents) simply aren’t getting the amount and the quality of sleep they need, and both they and their families are suffering the consequences. But many people think that being sleepy is simply a normal part of being a teen and, despite the epidemic of sleep deprivation, don’t consider it a serious issue. We expect teens to be exhausted. We also expect them to be irritable, contentious, and at least a bit zoned out. Being tired and difficult, after all, is just part of being a teen.
That kind of thinking needs to become a thing of the past. The latest research clearly shows that lack of sleep doesn’t result just in bleary-eyed youngsters trying to keep from keeling over at the breakfast table. Inadequate sleep, which is anything less than eight and a half hours a nght, can have negative effects—and may have dangerous effects under eight hours—on just about every aspect of teens’ lives: their stress level, their grades, their health, their sports performance, their growth, their mood, their emotional stability, their memory, their energy level, their ability to think clearly, their risk of injury, their skin condition, their weight, and their use of drugs and alcohol. Studies have shown that:
Fifty-five percent of car crashes that result from driver drowsiness are caused by drivers who are 25 or younger.
Female high school students who go to sleep two or more hours later on the weekend than on weekdays report feeling more depressed than those who don’t stay up later on the weekends.
Students just leaving middle school and beginning high school who sleep less and go to sleep later display more aggressive behavior than those who get more sleep.
Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood that teens will use nicotine and alcohol.
Sleepy adolescents react more slowly and have trouble making good decisions.
Students who receive C’s, D’s, and F’s go to sleep later and have less regular sleep patterns than those who get A’s and B’s.