Sleep needs for adolescents match those of young children
Research has shown that adolescents need almost as much sleep as young children says, Neurologist, Dr. Judy Willis, M.D. As children move through the teen years, they need at least seven hours of sleep a night in order to avoid behaviors associated with sleep deprivation that interfere with cognitive and attention skills.
Sleep performs a restorative function for the body and the brain. Many brain functions become considerably less efficient after a sleepless night. Sleep-deprived children display lower brain activity while working on math problems than they do when rested and they make more mistakes and omit more answers on tests.
Brain scans used to monitor activity in the brains of sleep-deprived subjects performing simple verbal learning tasks showed that that temporal lobe, which is important for language processing, was active during verbal learning in rested subjects but not in sleep deprived subjects. In another university study, parts of the prefrontal cortex and temporal cortex showed the most activity in brain scans of rested children. The prefrontal cortex helps coordinate attention and memory. The temporal cortex contributes to listening and reading comprehension.
Middle and high school teachers recognize that many of their students don't seem to function well in the first hours of the school day. Twenty percent of all high school students fall asleep in school and over 50 percent of students report being most alert after 3:00 p.m., which usually coincides with the end of the academic day. High school students who sleep less than six hours a night generally having poorer grades even if they report the same number of study hours.
Sleep deprivation also reduces the body’s supply of cortisone and growth hormone and disrupts hormones that regulate appetite. One study found that teens who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to be obese. An Australian study discovered that most vehicular accidents involve sleep deprivation. Teens who are get insufficient sleep also have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, and tend to take more unnecessary risks.
In 2004, Duke University stopped scheduling any 8 a.m. classes because students weren’t getting enough sleep. “They’re coming in to see us, and they’re ragged,” said Assistant Dean Ryan Lombardi. Duke also offers students individual health assessments for what to eat and how many hours to sleep.