Summer offers time to sleep for teenagers

Teens in the Newsroom ProgramJuly 16, 2013 

300 dpi Laurie McAdam color illustration of groggy woman waking to five a.m. alarm clock. The Modesto Bee 2008

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LAURIE MCADAM — The Modesto Bee

— Though summer usually brings teenagers a surplus of newfound time, apportioning it appropriately can be tricky. As much fun as staying up until the wee hours of the morning and watching sappy movies may sound, the effects on our biological clocks can be devastating. Making use of summertime to get an appropriate amount of sleep is critical for rejuvenating and refreshing our bodies.

Rachel McGillicudy, a junior at Turlock High School, sees a marked difference between how well rested she feels during summer compared to during the school year.

"I definitely get more sleep in the summertime," says Rachel. "By having the options of going to bed earlier or waking up later, it's easier to get in a few extra hours."

The importance of incorporating those precious hours of shut-eye is amplified by the Journal of Adolescent Health's recently released data, which indicates that teenagers on average are sleeping fewer than seven hours a night, well under the generally agreed upon guideline of 8½ to 9¼ hours.

"From what I see, teens are not making the effort to get a full amount of rest," says Turlock High senior Daniel Renteria. "For instance, I see them drinking energy drinks, which are really unnecessary and will only further damage their bodies."

The host of things that seems to be keeping teenagers up all night, ranging from highly caffeinated beverages to highly addictive electronics, further spotlights the distractions often precluding sleep from becoming a top priority. The predominant issue with this is that the sleep cycle can provide the full extent of its refreshing effects only when carried to completion.

Simply put, sleep is divided into two main phases: rapid-eye movement (REM) and nonrapid eye movement (NREM). Generally, individuals commence the sleep cycle with the longer-lasting NREM phase, during which metabolic activity, breathing and heart rate decrease. In the REM phase that follows, dreaming transpires and memories are classified.

Offsetting one's sleep cycle even a bit can rapidly give way to startling ramifications. A series of nights with suboptimal sleep has been found to weaken the immune system, negatively affect kidney function, decrease metabolism, hit creative problem-solving skills and increase the likelihood of depression.

For Rachel, making a regular effort to get enough shut-eye is crucial. "We're still young and growing," she says, "so sleep keeps you healthy."

Daniel also recognizes the importance of sleep. "I try to maintain a sleeping schedule where I receive an appropriate amount of sleep," he says. "However, when compared to the summer, during the school year my sleeping schedule isn't as consistent, as some days I could be working on a project or an assignment where I most often stay up late into the night."

Clearly, summer is the time to start making sleep a top priority, and hopefully this new outlook can carry on throughout the year. After all, there is a certain element of necessity attached to sleep that there's simply no getting around. As Daniel puts it, "Sleep is essential. Without it, our bodies just can't function properly."

Henna Hundal is a junior at Turlock High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom Program.

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