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Teenagers Hormones Play Havoc with Sleep!

Students and Sleep Deprivation

Students and sleep seem to have an antagonistic relationship. Disruptions in sleep and college life often go together due a combination of stress, coursework and social activities. However, sleep statistics reveal that many students begin experiencing sleep problems before college, and sleep problems in high school students are an issue of increasing concern.

Sleep Statistics

As a nation, we do not sleep well. Sleep statistics from the 2002 Sleep in America Poll indicate that adult Americans sleep an average of 6.9 hours a night. In addition, 35 percent of Americans report insomnia every night.

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Lack of sleep affects daily activities: 37 percent of Americans report that sleepiness interferes with functioning at least a few days a year. Impaired daily functioning affects work performance, relationships and, in the case of students and sleep, grades.

Sleep statistics concerning sleep and college are grim. A survey at Texas A&M University (2007) found that only 7 percent of students reported feeling rested after sleep, and 26 percent experienced academic difficulties due to sleep problems.

High School Students and Sleep

Problems with students and sleep don't begin in college. Increasing evidence suggests that high school schedules, combined with biological changes, contribute to sleep problems in teenagers.

Upon entering adolescence, a person's internal clock resets. Teens begin to feel sleepier later than prepubescent children. While later bedtimes in teens were thought to occur due to social and academic demands, it now appears that biological mechanisms cause this shift in teen sleep habits.

Teens also sleep longer and later than adults. Traditional high school schedules force teens to wake up too early, resulting in a high correlation between high school students and sleep deprivation. Lower grades, increased accidents and a higher risk of behavioral or emotional problems accompany teen sleep deprivation.

Some schools, recognizing the unique connection between the academic performance of students and sleep, have switched to later start times. A study of Connecticut high school students (American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2008) found that students attending high schools with later start times were less likely to report being sleepy during the day.

College Students and Sleep

Sleep and college life often seem mutually exclusive. All-night study sessions, stress, socializing and the freedom to choose when to sleep all work together to disrupt sleep in college.

A "sleep is for wimps" mindset also contributes to problems with sleep and college students. Reliance on coffee, energy drinks and over-the-counter "alertness" pills further interferes with students and sleep patterns.

Students, Alcohol and Sleep

For many students, college life includes parties, which in turn may mean alcohol consumption. Alcohol and sleep do not mix. While alcohol initially acts as a sedative, it also disrupts the sleep cycle, resulting in lighter sleep and nighttime awakening.

Students and Sleep Tips

Restful sleep and college life can coexist. Tips for students looking for a good night's sleep include:

         Avoid mixing caffeine, alcohol and sleep.

         Avoid all-nighter study sessions or parties.

         Avoid late night or early morning classes.

         Maintain a regular sleep schedule.

         Use "white noise" to muffle sounds.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2008). High School Students With A Delayed School Start Time Sleep Longer, Report Less Daytime Sleepiness. Retrieved October 22, 2010, from

Carpenter, S. (2010). Sleep deprivation may be undermining teen health. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

Central Michigan University (2008). College student sleep patterns could be detrimental. Retrieved October 25, 2010, from

National Sleep Foundation. (2002). 2002 sleep in America poll. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

Schreier Jones, J. (n.d.). Zzzzzz time: Sleep does more than bring you sweet dreams. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

Texas A & M University. (2008). Sleep and the College Student. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

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Posted: 08-06-2012