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Make sure you're getting enough Z's

The beginning of the school year can be nerve-wracking for most students, especially those enrolled in challenging courses.

As homework begins to pile up and other time-consuming activities and obligations commence, the school year may already be becoming stressful.

In order to feel rejuvenated and ready for what the day holds, a good night’s sleep is incredibly important.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need about eight to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best, though most teens do not sleep nearly this long. One study found that only 15 percent reported sleeping eight and a half hours on school nights.

Many studies show that students who sleep less suffer academically, since chronic sleep loss impairs the ability to remember, concentrate, think abstractly and solve problems.

In one of many studies on sleep and academic performance, American sleep researcher Mary Carskadon and her colleagues surveyed 3,000 high school students and found that those with higher grades reported sleeping more, going to bed earlier on school nights, and sleeping in less on weekends than students who had lower grades.

Experts say that during the teen years, the body’s circadian rhythm (our internal biological clock) is temporarily reset, telling a person to fall asleep later and wake up later. This change could be due to the fact that the brain hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for children and adults, according to

"When we talk about how sleep is controlled by the brain, we really are talking about two systems," said Carskadon in an interview. "One is the system that fills the tank at night, and the other is the biological clock system. It sets up a sort of cycle of when it’s easy to fall asleep and when it’s hard to fall asleep. Those times when it’s hard to fall asleep we call forbidden zones for sleep."

Sleep deprivation can even increase the likelihood that teens will suffer a multitude of negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts, researchers have found.

Studies also have shown that sleep deprivation can contribute to acne, since the amount of insulin resistance increases, which causes one to become acne-prone, according to the website Porcelain. The website also claims that weight gain can be a result of lack of sleep, considering it causes overeating or consumption of unhealthy foods (such as sweets or fried foods).

Although getting enough hours of sleep at night is essential, the quality of sleep also plays a vital role in feeling totally refreshed in the morning.

To ensure good sleep quality, follow these tips:

• Steer clear of violent or scary movies/television shows before bed (or anything that would cause the heart to race) in order to relax your mind, advises

• Avoid all-nighter study sessions, since staying up all night to study could mean performing worse on a test than studying less but receiving more sleep, says.

• Stay out of bright lights. Bright lights at night, especially phone screens, can be extremely detrimental. Studies have demonstrated that being exposed to the blue-and-white light emitted by phones and other electronics at night prevents our brains from releasing melatonin, the hormone that informs our bodies when it’s nighttime, according to Business Insider.

All-night study sessions or scrolling through social media during the wee hours of the night may be tempting, but the advantages of hitting the hay early far outweigh the negative consequences of staying up late.

Though at times it may be difficult to get a sufficient night of rest, the benefits that can be obtained are well worth it.

As the school year progresses and more obstacles and responsibilities surface, keep in mind how crucial it is to get a good night’s sleep.

Brianna Propis is a junior at St. Mary’s High School.


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