Sleep deprivation causes loss of focus

Abby Bamburg, Entertainment Editor

desk during first hour, U.S. History. His eyes close and open, close and open. He can barely remember the last thing his teacher said.
Due to homework and club activities, Tarakemeh sleeps an average of three to four hours on school nights.
“The first couple of weeks that you [miss out on a lot of sleep] are awful,” he said. “But after you do it so often, you get used to it. Your body eventually adjusts.”
According to Stanford.edu, the average American teenager gets about 6.5 hours of sleep on a school night — as opposed to the recommended nine hours.
School psychologist Julie Seitter said lack of sleep can affect students’ schoolwork more than any other activity.
“If you come to school sleepy or tired, it’s hard to keep your focus and hard to be motivated,” she said. “In significant cases where someone just isn’t sleeping much at all, it can even alter someone’s perceptions and be quite dangerous. It is kind of like we need water. We need food. And we need sleep. Without any of those things, our bodies deteriorate both physically and mentally.”
Seitter said the severity of sleep deprivation depends on the person.
“It also depends on how long a period of time you’re getting an insufficient amount of sleep,” she said. “If you have had no sleep whatsoever, three days of no sleep can be the equivalent of a month of not getting enough sleep.”
Sophomore Zack Smith is one of the 15 percent who gets the recommended amount of sleep per night.
“I’m not dozing off in classes, and I’m awake even after [wrestling] practice,” he said. “If I don’t get as much sleep the night before, I don’t have as much energy.”
Smith said he manages his time on school nights, so he can be in bed at a decent time.
“I come home from wrestling practice, and right away, I’m doing my homework,” he said. “I try to stay off the phone and video games so I’m in bed by 9.”
Because a lot of students play video games right before they go to bed, Seitter said it is difficult for a teenager’s mind and body to calm down.
“That takes such concentration and is exciting and gets your heart pumping,” she said. “You really need to take an hour before you go to sleep to just do something very calming like reading or listening to music. That should get yourself prepared to go to sleep.”
To avoid falling asleep during class, Tarakemeh said he takes naps regularly after school.
“I don’t use any caffeine or anything like that,” he said. “I usually just sleep as soon as I get home so I can balance out the amount of sleep I get with the last night.”
Tarakemeh said he gets double the amount of sleep on weekends to try to catch up with what he missed during the week.
Seitter said an increase in sleep on weekends is common today.
“We’re getting by on much less sleep on the weekdays and then we try to catch up on weekends and sleep several more hours,” she said.
Seitter said lack of sleep can also alter people’s moods and make them feel much more irritable.
“Your interactions with other people can be certainly less than positive compared to how you normally would act with someone if you were more alert,” she said.
She said getting back into a normal sleep pattern will also help teenagers with sleep deprivation.
“Sleep is important in anybody’s life,” Seitter said. “We need our sleep because that’s when we rejuvenate. It’s an absolute necessity for health.”
Seitter said lack of sleep affects mental health right away, while it affects physical health over time.
Health and physical education teacher Peggy Rose said symptoms of sleep deprivation include difficulty concentrating, irritability and failure to retain information.
“Sleep is important for making memories,” she said. “And that can be physical memories like how to shoot a basketball or mental memories like memorizing a formula.”
Rose said because sleep deprivation can have such harmful effects on a person’s health, teenagers need to refrain from any distractions.
“Students need to try to cut down on anything that sucks their time away, like social networking, watching TV before you do your homework or video games,” she said. “Do that stuff when it’s more convenient so you can try to get to sleep at a similar time every night.”
Since a good amount of sleep will boost people’s immune systems, Rose said it could lead to fewer illnesses.
She said taking 20-30 minute naps is a good way to get some extra sleep in.
“Teenagers need a lot of sleep for their health because they’re still growing,” Rose said. “And because of the fact that they live a very busy life. Developing a good sleep schedule now in life will make it easier to have one later in life.”