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Renceh Flojo

Writing for college 3

Mr. Ryan Smith

24 January 2018

Dead in the Morning: Sleep Deprivation in American Teens

Section 1: Introduction

Driving was a freedom that I was extremely excited for when I turned 16. When I finally

passed my driver’s test and got my provisional, it meant the world to me. It felt like the whole

world was open form to explore and cruise around. Seeing new places and experiencing new

things was really exciting, but in order to do that my parents said that I had to start driving to

school so they could trust me in driving further and further. I know that I don’t get the

recommended amount of sleep but one day I drove anyway. Going to school felt pretty good. I

didn’t feel tried when driving and I had enough endurance/focus to get from my house to school-

-a 30-minute drive without traffic.

The school day went along like any other school day and I was fine. It was time for me to

go home, relax and do homework, but driving from school to home was completely different

from driving to school in the morning. By the time I leave school, rush hour begins and what

would’ve taken 30 minutes becomes an hour or maybe even more. At the start of the drive, I felt

pretty good, but the moment I hit traffic it was a downhill slope. I felt as if my eyelids became

heavier and heavier as I fought through the monotony of stop and go traffic. Every time I would

open my eyes after closing, I would be welcomed with a big gap between my car and the car in

front of me or a distance too close for comfort. Driving was an ordeal especially the times when I

was sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is no joke. The feeling of constantly fighting sleep when I
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desperately needed it while driving in order to prevent an accident is scary. Luckily, nothing

happened on this day.

Sleep deprivation is getting any less than the doctor recommended amount of

sleep for a short to long period of time. This can cause a plethora of adverse effects on teens and

students. Sleep deprivation among teens is a problem that teens and students face daily. Students,

specifically teens, need to be aware of the dangers of sleep deprivation because it limits their

success in school, social life through their emotional control and impacts their health.

Section 2: Sleep Deprivation Research

School is hard. Trying to juggle the responsibilities of school with family, and extra-

curricular activities can be extremely taxing on the mind and body. School allows you to learn

and gain important skills that will help you in life but makes sure that you are being tested to

ensure that you are actually learning and comprehending the information. This makes it

necessary to pay attention in class while the teacher is sharing his or her perspective on

topic/discipline at hand. Sadly, it also defines your success in school through test scores and

grades rather than how you’ve grown as a person and how you use the tools and information

you’ve learned to improve the world on the global scale. Being sleep deprived doesn’t help. It

negatively impacts your ability to learn and study when trying to retain and understand the

information in class. This puts students (who are usually sleep deprived) at a disadvantage when

it comes to testing and learning as they try to fight the inherent need to sleep. Sleep deprivation

causes students to have a learning gap, putting them at a disadvantage.

The amount of sleep a student gets can and does get indicates how well a student does in

and outside of the classroom. A more well rested student is usually correlated with higher test

scores and information retention indicating that increasing amounts of sleep students has a
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positive impact on a student’s learning. Ruthann Richter, a director in Stanford’s medical school

wrote an article about the epidemic that is sleep deprivation in teens. In her article she referenced

a poll that “according to a 2006 National Sleep Foundation poll, the organization’s most recent

survey of teen sleep, more than 87 percent of high school students in the United States get far

less than the recommended eight to 10 hours, and the amount of time they sleep is decreasing —

a serious threat to their health, safety and academic success.” Although this poll is relatively old,

it still provides a shocking trend to how prolific sleep deprivation truly is. As time passes

technology advances at a rate that was inconceivable in past. As a result, this percentage has only

increased. Not only can this increase be attributed to the advancements in technology but also to

rising competition in classes and changes in demographics. The decreasing amount of sleep that

teens are getting nowadays are worse compared to the amount that students have been getting in

the past. Based on the statistic, since sleep deprivation among teens are only increasing there is

also a negative trend toward some of the most important aspects of their lives: their health and

school.

With the increasing competitiveness in school we are forcing students to become smarter

faster by constantly testing them and seeing if they sink or swim. As most students have the drive

to succeed, they try their best to stay awake at night trying to retain and comprehend the

information necessary to succeed in school. This effort to stay awake causes the amount of sleep

they get per night to diminish as their classes increase in difficulty as they go year to year. In the

same article mentioned previously, the author instead references Dr. Mary Carskadon’s work

with teens and sleep, “many studies show students who sleep less suffer academically, as chronic

sleep loss impairs the ability to remember, concentrate, think abstractly and solve problems. In

one of many studies on sleep and academic performance, Carskadon and her colleagues surveyed
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3,000 high school students and found that those with higher grades reported sleeping more, going

to bed earlier on school nights and sleeping in less on weekends than students who had lower

grades." The relationship between learning and sleep are as clear as day. Since students aren’t

able to think critically, they wouldn’t be able to solve the difficult problems required of them on

tests and in the real world. Due to the direct correlation between sleep and scores there is a

visible learning gap between those that get the recommended amount of sleep and those that are

sleep deprived. Students that that get enough sleep are more likely to succeed through the

challenges of school since they benefit from heightened attention and information processing.

Compared to those that are wide awake, their sleepy counterparts struggle to pay attention and to

understand all the information presented to them. As sleep deprivation continues to grow, the

learning gap caused by it which wasn’t too big at first only grows with the passage of time.

When students are at a disadvantage and continue to be because of their lack of sleep makes it

hard for them to catch up to students who have been getting the right amount of sleep. This only

furthers the distance between the two, further emphasizing how sleep deprivation causes many

students to have a learning gap, putting them at a disadvantage in the long run.

Sadly, while solving complex problems and doing difficult tasks are hard enough when

sleep deprived, even the most basic things can become a challenge. According to Chua, an expert

on sleep, mentioned in his article that, “Exposure to sleep deprivation impairs attention on simple

tasks and increases distractibility. However, it is often necessary to divide one’s attention

between multiple activities, for example during driving or while multitasking at work. When

more than one task is executed simultaneously, performance on one or both tasks is usually

impaired.” School is about being able to multitask and manage all the things that you have to do.

While studies have shown that multitasking is causes the quality of the work to diminish, it is
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often necessary to do it in school. When you are sleep deprived you aren’t able to multitask

efficiently, therefore contributing to the already growing learning gap between students.

Some may argue that studying all night regardless of getting the necessary amount of

sleep is the path to success. “Burning the midnight oil,” a common phrase that meant staying up

all night just to study and get things done. Students go through the constant cycle of staying up

late, going to school, getting homework and tests, then repeating again and again in their attempt

to succeed in school. Studies have shown that sleep is required to rejuvenate the body to allow

the brain to consolidate and interpret information better. Rather than fighting sleep just to get

those few hours of study time, students should be resting in order to better prepare themselves

for the challenges of the new day.

Section 3: Emotional Control and Sleep

A student’s social life is one of the more important parts of their life. While their life in

school helps to foster their thinking through all the different disciplines they learn, their life

outside school plays a bigger role towards their development as a person. Besides studying and

trying to achieve as much as he/she can, interpersonal relationships and emotions are important

towards a student’s success. Being able to assess emotions without verbal cues and to be able to

act on them is crucial going into their lives as adults. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,

the top three tiers of his pyramid deal with personal growth and relationships with other people

as the biggest motivators behind human choices. Behind the scenes, helping to facilitate the

choices in order to fulfill the needs according to Maslow is our emotions. For sleep-deprived

students, being unable to properly control our emotions and impulses can lead to behavior that

can adversely affect them in the long-run. Sadly, emotional control and response dwindle as the

lack of sleep increases.


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Being a teenager and more importantly, a student, comes with its fair share of problems

and benefits. As a teen, you are able to approach the world with a wider view towards the world.

Since your identity is still being formed, not only are teens able to approach problems with a new

perspective, they are also able to accept the biases and decide whether or not they believe in

them. This ability to be more open-minded compared to their adult counterparts give them the

power to continue or put a stop to all the biases that inhabit the world. While this freedom of

perspective and choice are great, students/teens, especially in high school, are going through the

rollercoaster that is puberty. Puberty is usually associated with mood swings and lack of

emotional control that teens are notorious for. While puberty and the rampant hormones

contribute to the chaos that the mood swings incur, sleep deprivation (also common in teens)

have an impact towards their lack of emotional control. Wendy Troxel, a renowned sleep

scientist and Ted speaker, spoke about the hard facts about the relationship between the brain and

sleep deprivation, “adolescence is a period of dramatic brain development, particularly in the

parts of the brain that are responsible for those higher order thinking processes, including

reasoning, problem-solving and good judgment. In other words, the very type of brain activity

that's responsible for reining in those impulsive and often risky behaviors that are so

characteristic of adolescence and that are so terrifying to us parents of teenagers.” Her statement

of the relationship between sleep deprivation and emotions clearly show how detrimental it is

towards growing teens. While adults say that teens are always impulsive and doing things

without thinking, they are not completely at fault because sleep deprivation is the growing

epidemic that is only adding fuel to the fire of teen impulsiveness. With growing degree of sleep

deprivation as the pressure to succeed increases, the risky behavior that teens and more

importantly students are exhibiting will only grow. This would cause a growing population of
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future leaders to take unnecessary risks that will continue as they grow older. As they grow

accustomed to the impulsiveness of their teen years the sleep deprived world is fostering

impulsive leaders rather than smarter leaders. Emotional control is also needed in school to be

able to calm down while taking tests and to maintain the interpersonal relationships between

students. Students need to be able to take calculated risks in order to succeed, but with the rise in

sleep deprivation, their success in school diminishes.

While the body is immediately affected by the lack of sleep with decreased energy levels

and exhaustion, the brain is even more so affected. Emotional control and regulation dwindle as

the degree of sleep deprivation increases. Students are greatly affected by this because they tend

to sleep less and less in an attempt to finish everything that was assigned to them. Negative

emotions are heightened and more prevalent but positive emotions become less and less present.

With the increase in negative emotions, it proves that sleep and emotions have some correlation

between the two. The likelihood of other psychological problems such as depression increase due

to the lack of control when sleep deprived. Outbursts of emotion like anger caused by the

affected sleep deprived person to not only be the one feeling the effects of lack of sleep but also

those around him. By having it not only isolated to just you, it makes others feel worse even if

they did nothing wrong. Katherine Baum, a scientist that did an experiment to find the

relationship between mood and sleep deprivation found that, “after only a few days of shortened

sleep, adolescents experienced decreased energy and increased fatigue and confusion. They

reported feeling less alert, less efficient, and more helpless, forgetful, and exhausted. In addition

to lacking energy, during sleep restriction, the adolescents also reported increased feelings of

tension, anger, and anxiety. They had more feelings of being ‘on edge,’ nervous, and restless

when sleep-restricted compared to when they had ample opportunity to sleep (10 hrs in bed).”
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These increased feelings negatively affect the students through the decisions they commit.

Chances to use substances like alcohol and smoke tend to increase as a way to cope with the

stress and impact that sleep deprivation has on the body. When taking these substances,

recklessness increases as well leaving students and those effects to take more risks. If students

were to get recommended amount of sleep every day, they would be more rested and ready to

control their emotions rather than relying on their impulses. Based on the study, their results

clearly show that sleep deprivation has a clear effect on the brain resulting in the lack of

emotional control and regulation that is common in teens.

More than likely the students that spend studying till late night won’t have quality study

time and the time they spent studying could’ve been used to get sleep. Critics could say that

emotions are not needed for the success of the student in school. All students need to do is learn

the material, get the grades and move on. Emotions are only needed to interact with others but

not with interacting with books and your own learning. But that isn’t the case because the

student’s mental health, their emotions, are important components to a successful teen and

student. Katherine, the scientist mentioned previously found that, “previous correlational

research has suggested that (a) negative mood is associated with shortened sleep during

adolescence, (b) this association may be stronger for anxiety than depression, and (c) short sleep

is also associated with wide mood swings and poor emotion regulation.” Sleep deprivation is a

big contributor towards the negative mood felt by students during their teen years. While success

can be proven by grades, it isn’t the only determinant of success. Their mental health is also

important. Students that lack social skills and interpersonal relationships are more likely to grow

isolated from the community and their mental health is affected. This causes more harm than
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good to the community at large. A change in sleep habits is needed to help foster good people

skills through the improvement in mood and emotional control.

Section 4: Your Health and Sleep

Without sleep, students are literally “dead” in the morning. Not only are their brains and

the way they respond to stimuli change, their body is even more so affected. Sleep allows your

body and mind to heal and process all the tasks you did today. It is crucial towards the healing of

strained muscle fibers after a workout, increased energy levels, lower cholesterol levels therefore

reducing the risk of heart attack and much more. With the advent of technology, healthy living as

a whole has decreased in the United States. As sleep deprivation increases year by year healthy

living decreases year by year as well. Lack of sleep affects healthy living.

A healthy life consists of regular exercise and a relatively good diet. Not only do these

two things help to prolong your life and allow you to be in your best condition, sleep is also

important towards living a healthy lifestyle. With the shifting changes fueled by technology in

the way we work and the way we do things cause us to live more sedentary lives. Sedentary life

is not good towards long term healthy living because our bodies are less active which can lead to

obesity and eventually a whole plethora of other obesity related diseases. "In this highly

advanced era everyday life offers fewer opportunities for physical activity and the resultant

sedentary lifestyles have serious consequences on physical fitness and health of the society in

general and to the young generation in particular, which gradually alter their body composition

and predisposes to obesity and its complications," Sarita Modi a sleep scientist who published

this medical journal explains. A lack of sleep has a direct correlation to increased BF %, BMI,

and much more, indicating a trend toward obesity. The author uses direct statistical analysis

based on the data gathered to prove that sleep deprivation or debt affects overall health. By
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having higher BF% and BMIs as a result of sleep deprivation could lead to obesity and eventual

problems like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, type 2 diabetes, mellitus, stroke, sleep apnoea, heart

disease and much more. This correlation between a lack of sleep and increased BMIs indicate

that sleep is important towards living a healthy lifestyle. Adolescents and teens in general are

developing during these years. Being sleep deprived negatively impacts this growth and it makes

it much more difficult to live a healthier lifestyle in the future since their bodies are gradually

getting predisposed towards obesity according to the article.

Sleep is important towards your body because it provides your body time to rest and

recover from the stress of the day before. Without that time to recover you are left feeling tired

and essentially “dead” when you should be wide awake. According to Dr. Travis Bradberry,

“compromises your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and control food intake. When

you sleep less you eat more and have more difficulty burning the calories you consume. Sleep

deprivation makes you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and

makes it harder for you to get full by reducing levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin.”

Sleep deprivation is a silent killer that affects most if not all of the growing population today.

Many health-related problems are caused by acute and chronic lack of sleep. With the increase in

the likelihood to contract such problems, it makes it impossible to live a healthy lifestyle. Even if

the degree of sleep deprivation is small, you are still exposed to lower metabolic rates which can

in turn cause obesity. With the increase in weight you are prone to have all problems that come

with obesity such as high blood pressure. Having enough sleep allows the body to recuperate,

consolidate information, and self-regulate. If the body doesn’t have enough sleep, it causes the

harmful toxins that are usually removed when sleeping. Since they stay inside the body not

broken down, it affects the immune system by weakening it, making you more prone to illness.
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Sickness prevents someone from being healthy. This proves that a lack of sleep affects overall

healthy living resulting worse health that usual. Based on this it is almost impossible to live a

healthy life as a students since the sleep we get each year dwindles constantly.

Section 5: Conclusion

Driving in traffic is still pretty boring but at least it’s a bit more bearable now that I’m not

as sleep deprived as before. Even if one student (me) is not as sleep deprived, there are still many

students fighting the need to sleep just to succeed. Sleep deprivation is a silent killer. It works

against students by affecting their studies, mood, and well-being. With schools starting earlier

and earlier in order to get more class time, students are getting less sleep and therefore increasing

the degree of sleep deprivation. While although this is the general trend schools are following,

there are some that realize the benefits of getting enough sleep. Wendy Troxel, a sleep scientist

found that when schools push start times “their mental and physical health improves, and even

their families are happier… Even their communities are safer because car crash rates go down -

- a 70 percent reduction in one district.” A happier life is a well slept one. Maybe the underlying

problem of all the misunderstandings between people is sleep deprivation. It affects everyone at

all stages of life and needs to be dealt with.


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Works Cited

Baum, Katherine T., et al. "Sleep Restriction Worsens Mood and Emotion Regulation in

Adolescents." Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, vol. 55, no. 2, Feb. 2014, pp.

180-190. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/jcpp.12125.

Bradberry, Dr. Travis. “Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You (And Making You Fat In The

Process).” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Jun 2017

Chua, Eric Chern-Pin, et al. “Effects of Total Sleep Deprivation on Divided Attention

Performance.” Plos ONE, vol. 12, no. 11, 22 Nov. 2017, pp. 1-11. EBSCOhost,

doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0187098.

Modi, Sarita, et al. "Effect of Sleep Duration and Physical Activity on Certain Important Body

Composition Parameters among Medical Students." Asian Journal of Medical Sciences,

vol. 7, no. 5, Sep/Oct2016, pp. 56-60. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3126/ajms.v7i5.14934.

Richter, Ruthann. “Among teens, sleep deprivation an epidemic.” News Center, Stanford

medicine, 8 Oct. 1970, med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/10/among-teens-sleep-

deprivation-an-epidemic.html. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

Troxel, Wendy. Wendy Troxel: Why school should start later for teens | TED Talk Subtitles and

Transcript | TED, Ted, Nov. 2016,

www.ted.com/talks/wendy_troxel_why_school_should_start_later_for_teens/transcript#t-

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