go through could lead them to get even less rest, which could result in greater and long-term health and behavioral problems.


Memory is involved in just about everything we do. We need to remember how to get home, what to pick up at the grocery store, the formula for figuring out how many yards of carpeting we need for the living room, and where in the world we left the car keys this time. For teens, memory is just as important: They have to remember their homework assignments, the plays for the next football game, which day the SAT will be given, and where in the world they left the car keys this time. A highly functioning memory is critical to performing and living at our best.

In simple terms, sleep deprivation interferes with memory function. In fact, studies show that it has a dramatically negative effect not only on memory formation but on memory access and retrieval. A sleep-deprived brain keeps neurons from firing quickly enough and working smoothly and efficiently enough to provide you with the information you need in a reasonable time.

Memory function fails when a teen, who needs around nine hours of sleep nightly, chronically gets only six to seven. And that failure is pervasive—it affects the teen’s ability not only to remember facts and figures but to sort things out and think clearly. Sleep loss particularly affects episodic memory, that is, your memory time and spatial relationship—what you need to answer the questions on a history quiz. French researchers have found a clear association between restricted REM sleep time (see Chapter 3 for information about REM sleep) and episodic memory deficits when adolescents were given a “what, where, when”–type test.

A strongly functioning memory, then, is key to learning and to doing well in school. And because teens spend so much of their life in school and learning all sorts of things, I’ve continued this section on memory in another chapter that’s devoted entirely to learning. See Chapter 4, “The Sleep-Learning Link,” for a comprehensive look at this all-important topic.

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