You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but you could use more sleep. We could too! Seriously, we are a sleep deprived nation, and the effects of not enough of sleep go way beyond simply feeling tired all day. And – surprise, surprise – teens are more likely to fall short on sleep than any other group.
The average adolescent needs eight and a half to nine hours of sleep a night. Fewer than 20 percent(!!) report getting that much.
Sleep is vital to our wellbeing, and according to experts, not getting enough of it increases the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes (not the kind you’re born with), obesity and even depression.
But here’s where it gets really interesting. A lack of sleep is also linked to risk-taking behavior (like substance abuse and reckless driving), which makes total sense when you think about it. You see, inadequate sleep causes cognitive deficits, meaning you can’t think as clearly as you would otherwise (Trouble focusing in class after staying up too late? That’s a cognitive deficit.). And if you aren’t thinking clearly… well, you get the idea.
Now don’t get it twisted. Nobody’s saying that a lack of sleep means you’re destined to go down a bad-decision spiral. But it’s not doing you any favors either. In fact, it’s the opposite. Improved grades and test scores have even been shown to follow improvements in sleep!
We can’t change what time school starts (or maybe we can!?), but there are small changes you can make, and even small improvements can make a big difference (one study found that the amount of sleep separating C-students from B-students was an average of only 15 minutes, and another 15 minutes separated the B’s from the A’s) . We’re not going to lie: procrastinating on homework and staying up to text with friends are tough habits to break, but they are HUUUUUGE sleep stealers.
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