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OC HIGH / Student News and Views : Don't Snooze, You Lose : Health: Rest isn't a high priority for all teens, but getting enough has its benefits, and getting too little (or too much) can be more than exhausting.

June 02, 1995|JINA CHUNG | Jina Chung is a junior at Sunny Hills High School in Fullerton, where this article first appeared in the student newspaper, the Accolade.

Problem: You have an important physics exam tomorrow, but you had to go to your part-time job at McDonald's from 4 to 6 p.m. Because of homework and preparation for other classes, you put off studying until midnight.

Solution: Pop a couple of No Doz pills, wash them down with coffee and study into the morning hours.

Sound familiar?

Staying awake all night, whether to study or to party, is a common ritual. In fact, sleep deprivation has even become a point of pride for some teens--as in, "How little sleep did you get last night?"

Most students consider five to seven hours of sleep a good night's rest, which, according to Mark Brayford, a registered technician at West Medical Sleep Disorders Center in Anaheim, is not enough in most cases.

"It's estimated that teen-agers should be getting an average of 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep each night," Brayford said. "In fact, teens actually need more sleep than 10-year-olds, because they are going through such a massive growth spurt."

It's no wonder, then, that some classes at school seem more like slumber parties or that you can sleep like a stump--12 to 14 hours a stretch--on weekends.

"One time, I stayed up two consecutive nights to study for the finals, and as soon as school got out on Thursday, I went straight to sleep. When I woke up, I thought it was Friday, but I later realized that it was really Saturday," said Sunny Hills High School junior Sam Song.

Corry Roerick, a technician at St. Jude Sleep Disorders Institute in Fullerton, said: "Teen-agers are the most sleep-deprived group, mostly because they usually have to juggle so many things at once--school, job, extracurricular activities, homework--and, unfortunately, sleep is the first thing to be sacrificed to make more time for them."

Among the effects of sleep-deprivation are diminished immunity to illnesses and a shorter temper. Another is an increased risk of sleeping disorders, such as insomnia.

"After a long time of continuous sleep depravity, you may develop a certain behavioral pattern called 'learned insomnia,' " Brayford said. "This state is characterized by poor sleeping habits and consistently having trouble getting to sleep and or staying asleep."


The benefits of sleep are numerous.

"You're more alert during the day, you're less irritable, and dreaming may even improve your ability to learn," Roerick said. "Some researchers even claim that sleep may aid the consolidation of memory and give the brain a chance to examine its circuits when it's not delivering messages from, or sending them to, the outside world."

Most students are familiar with napping after school. This urge to nap, according to sleep researchers, is natural and healthy, contrary to what many think. In fact, many sleep researchers have found that people show a strong readiness to fall asleep in the middle of the day, even if they've had enough sleep the night before. However, too much sleep in the afternoon can throw your inner clock off and keep you up at night.

There are other body rhythms that are helpful to know. Noon is the time when you're the most alert, while the peak of your physical powers is in the early evening. The best time for short-term memory tasks, such as taking a human anatomy test, is in the early morning, and logical reasoning is strongest in the middle of the day. Overall, everyone, even the sleep-deprived, is likely to function best in midmorning and early evening.

Too much sleep at a stretch can also make you feel exhausted.

"After 12 hours of continuous sleep, your body re-enters its deepest sleep stage. So when you wake up after sleeping 14 hours, you tend to feel as if you've only slept two," Brayford said.

The best thing to do is to get as much sleep as you need every night. And if you do lack sleep one night, as long as you sleep well the next night, you don't need to sleep extra hours.

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