Sleep is an essential naturally recurrent state, which is characterized by the absence of consciousness, inactivity in voluntary muscles and partially suspended sensory activity. The state experiences heightened anabolism and regeneration and growth. Sleep is critical for physical functioning and proper cognitive among all people, but more so among the adolescent who are actively growing and engaged in various cognitive and physical learning activities. Proper sleep revitalizes their strength and cognitive ability by enhancing the ability to concentrate, alertness and physical strength. In spite of the cognizance of the importance of sleep, research has shown that American teenagers are deprived sufficient sleep. This contributes to poor performance, driving while drowsy, sleep during class hours and the inability to engage in physical activities. This paper summarizes the findings from a comprehensive piece of literature by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) showing facts about sleep among the American teenagers (Rosen & Behrens 483).
A national survey by NSF in 2006 revealed that only 20% of teenagers (11-17 years) sleep for the recommended 9 hours period on school nights. Approximately 45% of the teenagers sleep for less than 8 hours. The statistics are a clear sign of significant sleep deprivation. However, the rather startling finding is that parents are not aware of such deficits in sleep among their children. While most teenagers know that they do not get sufficient sleep, 90% of the surveyed parent population was not aware that the teenagers were not getting sufficient sleep. In the same survey only 7% of the parents stated that their children may be having a sleep problem. Interestingly, 16% of teenagers surveyed said that they have or thought that they had a sleep problem. This is a clear and significant disparity, which implies that parents are in the dark about their children’s sleeping patterns. The lack of awareness by parents may thus be the major reason why the problem is persistent. Additionally, 31% of the surveyed teenagers that had sleeping problems had not revealed the situation to their parents (Rosen & Behrens 483). Parents are the people with the information and knowledge on the essence of sleep and how to enhance better sleep. Therefore, if they lack awareness on the problem plaguing their children, they are less likely to make any response. Therefore, as the informed decision-makers they should be informed and educated on these issues and statistics. This will help them in educating their children on the same and provide a better home environment that can enhance better sleep. This could be enhanced by redesigning bedrooms’ ambience, commissioning a sleeping schedule, avoiding diet that affects sleep patterns and encouraging good sleep habits. Therefore, parents are important in changing this negative trend portrayed in the survey.
The factors that affect sleep and sleeping patterns are classified into two. NSF briefly depicts the sleep/factor relation as follows: EVERY DAY PRESSURES + NATURE = LESS SLEEP.
Teenagers have a natural shift in the circadian rhythm, which makes them more alert late into the night and also pushes them to wake up later in the morning. This natural shift is one of the natural contributing factors to reduced sleep periods (Rosen & Behrens 483). In spite of this being a natural process, its negative impact could be overcome by enhancing a sleep encouraging environment for the child by encouraging habits such as taking a warm bath before bedtime, turning the lights low, reading a story and reducing noise levels. The effect of this natural change is often worsened by other daily pressures such as engaging in stimulating activities such as gaming into the night, taking caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, studying late into the nights for examinations, napping and excessively engaging with technological equipment. Most of these activities affect sleep patterns in different ways. For example, alcohol and napping lead to night time sleep interruptions. On the other hand, caffeinated drinks and various forms of technology and bright lighting cause stimulation, which hinders sleep.
In order to curb these challenges both parents and teenagers should be well educated on the importance of sleep and its influence on their performance in learning and engagement in physical activities. Parents should look out for sleep deprivation signs. These include having to wake up teenagers for school, reports of sleeping during class, dozing off while doing homework, long napping periods, reliance on caffeinated drinks to stay alert and changes in moods and behaviour with changes in sleep patterns. Detection of any of these signs should be a sure indicator of sleep deprivation. In order to combat the problem parents and children should be encouraged to observe the following recommendations so as to enhance better sleep patterns.
Firstly, it is essential to ensure that the teenagers’ sleeping rooms are made ambient for sleeping. This should include the elimination of electronics such as video games, television and music systems. The lighting should not be too bright as this stimulates senses and may be taken as a sign to wake up, which stimulate the brains activity. Additionally, technological electronics such as video games, television, music systems and telephones should be eliminated from the bedroom or a strict usage regime is established so as to avoid their excessive usage, which may hamper sleep. Students should be taught on how to relax and enhance sleep by either taking a warm bath or engaging in activity that prepares them for sleep such as reading a short story (Rosen & Behrens 483). Teenagers should also be enlightened on the essence of maintaining a constant and regular sleeping pattern because this enhances better sleeping. The teenagers should also be instructed to keep of caffeinated or alcoholic drinks because these interrupt sleep patterns. Finally, parents should be the supervisors of their children and always instruct them on sleeping times before they can learn to manage their sleeping patterns.
Rosen, J. L. & Behrens, L. Writing and Reading across the Curriculum, 11th edition, New York, NY: Longman Publishing Group, 2010. Print