‘Catch-up’ Option for Lost Sleep in Teenagers a Myth


Can teenagers really catch up on the sleep they lose out on school days by   sleeping late on weekends? “NO’ is the firm answer.


A 2006 National Sleep Foundation poll showed that less than 20 percent of them actually get the required sleep of eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep on school nights. It is even worse today, shows a study in Fairfax, VA. Only 6 percent of children in the 10th grade and only 3 percent in the 12th grade get the recommended amount of sleep. Two in three teens were found to be severely sleep-deprived, losing two or more hours of sleep every night.


The reasons? Biological. Behavioral. Environmental. And yes, the invasion of personal electronics.


The impact? The American Academy of Pediatrics’ assessment is profoundly alarming. High blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes. Obesity. Depression. Suicidal ideation. Risk-taking behavior. In short, they say, lack of sleep can be fatal.


School start times are coming under the microscope. Kyla Wahlstrom’s study of 9,000 students in eight Minnesota public high schools showed that starting school a half-hour later resulted in an hour’s more sleep a night and an increase in the students’ grade point averages and standardized test scores.


Problems lurk beyond the bedroom too. Overscheduled lives on account of sports, clubs, volunteer work and paid employment can cut seriously into the time needed for schoolwork leading to shorter nights. Also at risk are teenagers from low-income and minority families with overcrowding, excessive noise and safety concerns.


Compensating for sleep deprivation on weekends further compromises an adolescent’s sleep-wake cycle. It induces permanent jet lag and shifts their internal clock, making it even harder to get to sleep Sunday night and wake up on time for school Monday morning.


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