Tired of being tired

Brooke Ortiz, Staff Writer

Juggling homework, clubs, sports and personal recreational time, high school often denotes a lack of sleep. A study reported by the Sleep Foundation revealed that 85 percent of adolescent students receive less than eight and a half hours of sleep on school nights despite the recommendation of nine to ten hours of sleep. Students may decrease the amount of time they dedicate to sleeping in an attempt to extend the amount of time they can use to do homework or to engage in a recreational activity. However, a lack of sleep results in decreased capability for memory, altered mood, susceptibility to infection, inefficient bodily repair, acne and overeating potentially resulting in weight gain.

“I usually get six to seven hours of sleep because of the amount of homework we get,” freshman Sydney Miller said. “I feel I should get more [sleep] and it makes it hard to focus in school.”

According to Dr. Robert Stickgold, the human body during sleep revisits memories and stores them in an efficient and effective form. Whilst sleep deprived, concentration proves difficult, resulting in a decreased ability to acquire and process new information. Furthermore, healthysleep.med.harvard.edu suggested that the period of sleep immediately following a lesson is most critical in regards to consolidating memories. When, for example, students pull an “all-nighter,” that sleep period cannot be recovered, resulting in the brain struggling more to retain and utilize the information of the day.

A study published in Sleep revealed that the risk of psychological stress increases by 14 percent for every hour of sleep lost a night. Psychological stress refers to the feelings people have when under mental, physical or emotional pressure. The body responds to such pressure by releasing stress hormones such as epinephrine or norepinephrine that increase blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels. While such responses can aid a person in a threatening situation and explain how mothers can lift cars off of their children, research has shown that people who experience chronic (intense and long term) stress can have digestive problems, fertility problems. urinary problems, and a weakened immune system, making them more prone to viral infections.

“Sometimes I get so much homework it stresses me out and deprives me of sleep,” junior Franco Iparraguirre said. “Especially when you take AP and honors classes it is very difficult to get enough sleep.”

Animals deprived entirely of sleep lost all immune function and died within weeks. Scientists continue to search for an explanation as to why organisms sleep but one theory states that a sleeping period serves the purpose of allowing the body an opportunity for restorative and rejuvenation tasks such as muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis and growth hormones. All listed functions occur mostly or only during sleep, providing researchers with a potential explanation answering the question of why we sleep.

While awake, the neurons in the human brain produce adenosine as a by-product of the activities of the cells. The accumulation of adenosine may be one factor leading to the perception of being tired. During sleep, the body has an opportunity to cleanse the system of adenosine, resulting in a more alert feeling upon awakening. Similarly, caffeine blocks the actions of adenosine in the brain to cause people to feel more awake.

Sleep deprivation also results in elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). A rise in these protein levels can indicate inflammation within the body and the levels also rise in response to conditions such as cancer, heart attacks, infection, tuberculosis and pneumococcal pneumonia.

A lack of sleep also affects mood by, generally, increasing irritability and stress.

“Sleep definitely affects my mood,” sophomore Andrew Matus said. “[Sleep deprivation] makes me less rational until I realize I am just sleep deprived.”

To maximize sleep each night, sleepfoundation.org recommends creating a bed and wake-time schedule and sticking with it, even on weekends; not eating, drinking or exercising within hours of bedtime, avoiding electronics because the glow impacts the hypothalamus by delaying the release of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, and creating a to-do list to limit stress and worrying by outlining exactly what needs to be accomplished the next day.

Adolescents are wired to stay up later and, therefore, sleep in later but school schedules impede this natural biological clock, making it imperative that students actively attempt to maximize the amount of sleep they get each night.