Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep is one of the most important things a person does each day. It allows the body to rest and to replenish itself so that it is better able to serve its function of living. Yet many people who don't have enough hours in the day to do everything have to cut out sleep before any other activity. This is especially true for teenagers, who most nights are frantically trying to finish writing essays and completing worksheets before the clock strikes twelve, or are busy participating in after school sports that leave them weary and return them home late. Most adolescents need at least eight hours of sleep each night. But the National Sleep Foundation estimates that only 15 percent of teenagers get that much, with 25 percent of teens getting less than seven hours. With adults, this amount of sleep is known to cause countless problems in their everyday life. And as adolescents are biologically driven to sleep longer and later than adults do, the effects of these sleeping patterns are even more disastrous (Carpenter 1). However, the high school education system does not seem to recognize the negative effects that sleep deprivation can have on high schoolers, and continue to have school classes start at an obscene time of morning. Each of us has a specific daily sleep requirement. The average sleep requirement for high school students is well over eight hours. If this amount is not obtained, a sleep debt is created. All lost sleep accumulates progressively as a larger and larger sleep indebtedness (Dement 1). Your sleep debt does not go away or spontaneously decrease. The only way to reduce your individual sleep debt is by obtaining extra sleep over and above your daily requirement.

The powerful brain mechanism that regulates the daily amount of sleep is called the sleep homeostat. By increasing the tendency to fall asleep progressively, this process ensures that most people will get the amount of sleep they need, or close to it. The elevated sleep tendency together with the combined drowsiness and an intense desire for sleep would ordinarily prevent most people from becoming dangerously sleep deprived because they would go to bed early, or sleep late, when such excessive daytime sleepiness occurred.

As I have grown older, the more I have began to realize that sleep or the lack thereof is a major factor in how I live my life. For example, I find that I usually do better on tests if I get a good nights sleep instead of staying up late studying for them. I also used to perform better in my high school basketball games if I went to sleep early opposed to staying awake to try and memorize all of the plays. These occurrences prove to me that sleep plays an important role in my successes and failures.

Sleep deprivation can affect mood, performance, attention, learning, behavior, and biological functions. There are many factors that can contribute to one not getting enough sleep, including not allowing enough time for sleep, excessive worry, depression, repeated awakenings from noise, working at night, travel across time zones, and medical illness causing pain or difficulty breathing. Many of these symptoms are referred to as insomnia, which means “inability to obtain sufficient sleep, esp. when chronic; difficulty in falling or staying asleep; sleeplessness” (www.dictionary.com).

Fatigue and sleeplessness are often a direct result of lifestyle choices. For example, drinking caffeine or alcohol before bedtime is among the most common causes of sleep deprivation. Similarly, working shifts that keep you up late or even thought the night can be unavoidable in many professions and can drastically alter normal circadian patterns. Another common cause of sleep deprivation is when a person spends too much time doing other activities in their bed. When one spends a lot of time in their bed doing homework, watching television, and other such activities, it is hard for the body to understand that it is supposed to feel sleepy when it is...
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