By Alina Issakhanian
We hear it all the time, people bragging about their lack of sleep because of how “busy” or “preoccupied” with homework from their rigorous courses or extracurriculars they were to get to sleep at a proper time. It’s as if sleeping for four hours a day is cooler than sleeping the recommended amount. Sleeping only a few hours a night is a serious problem, however, that needs to be addressed.
Being a teenager can be very tiring and draining between going to school, doing extracurriculars, finishing homework and even having a job. Many teenagers resort to naps when the fatigue becomes too much, though they are often judged for needing to nap. Although naps can benefit people in all age groups, specifically teenagers, there is still a stigma around naps being only for grouchy children, dads and grandparents. In society, naps indicate laziness, a lack of ambition.
According to Johns Hopkins pediatrician Michael Crocetti, teenagers need nine to nine and a half hours of sleep per night which is more than many of us receive even on our best nights.
“Teenagers are going through a second developmental stage of cognitive maturation,” Crocetti said. This means that sleep supports teenagers developing brain and physical growth as well. Consistent sleep can protect teens from serious issues that can stem from sleep deprivation, such as depression or drug use.
Sleep deprivation affects the teenage age group more than any others, according to the medical journal pediatrics. The major turning point for sleep deprivation is around age 14-15, when teens experience the most drastic drop in hours of sleep per night. Interestingly enough, many kids start high school around this age, which suggests that this stress and sleep deprivation can be traced back to school life. This is why even a short nap can be helpful in the development of the teen mind.
According to the New York Post, getting up early for school and staying up late for extracurriculars could lead to chronic sleep deprivation in American teens, which is something many of us can vouch for. Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is considering a law, which would come into effect in 2022, that does not allow high schools in the district to start before 8:30 a.m. However, that may not be the biggest concern. Xiaopeng Ji, a researcher at the University of Delaware argues that instead of delaying the time which school begins, American schools should consider a longer lunch break which allows for routine midday naps and “may produce additional benefits for heightened cognitive performance among adolescents.”
If a nap is desired, Ji says that it should last from 30 to 60 minutes and take place around 12:00 to 2:00 in the afternoon because that is when many teens experience a dip in their circadian rhythm; which is the natural and internal process that regulates one’s sleep-wake cycle.
Ultimately, naps for teenagers especially, can prevent sleep deprivation which often leads to a multitude of other serious problems. Sleep can be a major driving factor in our day-to-day performance. Sleep deprivation can lead to concentration difficulties, shortened attention span, memory impairment, moodiness and aggression, depression, poor-decision making, and slower physical reflexes on top of many other mental and physical complications in the teenage population today.
It is urgent that we address this issue before we take on a whole generation of people who exhibit under-developed mental qualities.