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Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: The sleep deprivation epidemic among teens

Across the United States and the world, teens are not getting enough sleep on a daily basis. Doctors typically recommend that high schoolers should be getting at least nine hours of sleep every day to stay healthy.

But this clearly isn’t the case.

I, along with a multitude of my peers, are barely squeezing in four hours of sleep per day — a whole five hours below doctors’ recommended amount. Not sleeping can take an intense toll on one’s body and lead to serious health hazards, including a weakened immune system and high blood pressure. It also prompts students to consume more caffeine, which may also endanger one’s health (someone at my school actually had to go to the hospital for caffeine overdose — something went wrong in his intestines).

In addition to all of this, deprived amounts of sleep can prompt even more stress in already-tense students. We are already constantly struggling to balance academics and extracurricular activities, and when you add drowsiness into the equation, it causes an endless cycle of anxiety. During school, students are tired from a bad night of sleep, causing them to become unfocused on what they’re learning. This leads to the students having to study even more at home to catch up on schoolwork, which then leads to not getting enough sleep again. It’s a never-ending circle.

In the U.S. especially (where the minimum age for driving is 16), sleep deprivation can easily endanger both the driver and others on the road. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that at least 6000 fatal car crashes are due to drowsy driving, and the National Safety Council approximates that drivers under age 25 are responsible for at least 50% of drowsy driving accidents.

The dangers of sleep deprivation are evident. But what are the solutions?

California recently passed a bill that pushes back school start times, making it the first state to do so. While this does mean that students will be released out of school at later times, previous research has indicated that later start times will help with students’ health and academic performance. These new start times will begin in 2022, and hopefully, more states will follow California’s lead in solving this epidemic.

While this is a huge step towards eliminating sleep deprivation among adolescents, it should not be the only one. As students, we can work towards organizing a better sleep schedule ourselves by reducing electronic use, avoiding caffeine before bedtime, and steering clear of driving when drowsy. Take time for self care when necessary, and reach out to adults (such as parents or teachers) in your life if you ever feel that sleep deprivation is seriously affecting your life.

This is a serious public health issue that affects us all. Together, we can push towards action to solve the sleep deprivation issue among teenagers.