20 March 2014
Everyone knows how difficult it is to wake up after getting little to no sleep. However, many people believe that once they get up and begin their day the drowsiness will wear off. This isn’t necessarily the case. The effects of a lack of sleep can have a major impact on how one functions throughout the day without them even realizing it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep and adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. However, many people, especially teens, rarely get this much sleep on a regular basis. Some people lack sleep because they don’t have time or prefer to be doing other things. Others want to sleep but suffer from sleep disorders. It is estimated that about 50 to 70 million Americans deal with some type of sleep disorder. 60% of Americans say they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night, such as waking in the night, waking up too early, or feeling un-refreshed when they get up in the morning (National Sleep Foundation). Researchers are starting to find out more information about how the human body functions with a lack of sleep and how one can negatively be affected in both school and in the workplace.
If one were to walk down the hallways of a high school early in the morning, they would be surrounded by zombies meandering to class, practically drooling on themselves. It’s obvious that teenagers just aren’t getting enough sleep, but many of them don’t seem to care or even notice it. The National Sleep Foundation concluded that only about 15% of teens get a decent 8 ½ hours of sleep on an average school night. Getting enough sleep is a major factor in learning and how much information students take in, along with the child’s behavior in school. “Both younger and older kids who have slept less are rated by parents as more irritable, hyperactive, and inattentive. They are also more likely to be anxious or depressed” (Willingham). Willingham also states that tired teens tend to have difficulty paying attention. This sort of attention deficit can lead to low grades and a lack of interest in school. Getting inadequate sleep can have a great effect on a student’s memory. “Acquisition and recall occur only during wakefulness” (Harvard). This can greatly impact teens’ performance in school and affect their grades. Not sleeping well leads to being susceptible to illness, which can keep them out of school (National Sleep Foundation).
Adults don’t need entirely as much sleep as adolescents. However, a lack of sleep is an issue for many adults in the workplace. “Fatigue is four times more likely to contribute to workplace impairment than drugs or alcohol” (Davenport). According to Risk Management, sleepless workers often miss work, make errors, and experience daytime sleepiness. It was also concluded that a lack of sleep could cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. “People who sleep poorly are at greater risk for a number of diseases and health problems” (Harvard). These health issues can include increased blood pressure, inflammation, and impaired control of blood glucose. There have also been several studies linking little sleep with obesity, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In fact, it is estimated that 90% of people who suffer from insomnia also have another health condition (WebMD). The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School has also found that a lack of sleep takes a toll on perception, judgment, and productivity. People who don’t sleep well also exhibit mood changes, such as irritability with others in the workplace (Zamora). According to Dulce Zamora, sleeplessness leads to a slower reaction time.
Many people wonder how they can maximize the effect of the sleep they get if there is no possible way for them to fit more sleep into their schedule. A lot of people maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekends. This keeps their bodies used to sleeping and waking up at a certain time and it becomes used to that schedule. Exercise is also important in getting good sleep, but exercising within three hours of going to bed is more likely to keep one up at night. It’s also a helpful idea to avoid alcohol, food, tobacco, and caffeine several hours before bed. These can stimulate the body and keep the user from falling asleep and cause them to sleep more lightly or not stay asleep (Sleep Health Foundation). Having a relaxing pre-sleep routine can relax the body and prepare the mind for sleep. This includes avoiding bright lights and LCD screens before bed as these can stimulate the brain (Asprey).
Even though many people feel that they do not get enough sleep because they don’t have the time or they believe it’s just not that important, a lack of sleep can have a huge effect on both teens and adults in school and in the workplace. Those who don’t sleep well struggle with not being as functional and not having the brainpower to make it through the day. Employers deal with nonproductive workers and schools deal with unmotivated students. Even if one doesn’t have a lot of time to sleep due to their schedule, they can still do things to improve their sleep and maximize its effects.
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