A wake-up call for teens about the importance of getting enough sleep

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NOAM BUCH, SAUL MIROWITZ JEWISH COMMUNITY SCHOOL

The Centers for Disease Control says kids ages 13 to 18 should get eight to 10 hours of sleep. But according to the American Physical Therapy Association, 58% of middle schoolers don’t get enough sleep.

Ayden Nelson, a seventh grader at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School and member of Congregation B’nai Amoona, said she gets five to six hours a night, which is below the recommended amount.

“I normally have to have a lot of caffeine during the day in order to stay awake,” Nelson said.

Ezra Gould, a seventh grader at Wydown Middle School in Clayton, who is unaffiliated, says he gets 10 hours of sleep.

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“I do all my sports on the weekends,” he said, adding that on weekdays, he tries to go to sleep between 9 and 9:30 p.m. and wakes up between 7 and 7:30 a.m.   

Besides feeling bad during the day, a lack of sleep also impacts students’ health.

“The biggest thing I see when kids are not getting enough sleep is trouble concentrating and focusing at school,” said Dr. Abby Kushnir, a pediatrician and congregant of B’nai Amoona. “Not getting enough sleep can affect our physical health, too. (It) can be associated with obesity, high blood pressure, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.”

Today more than ever, technology paired with social media and gaming have given kids reasons to stay awake. Sometimes anxiety and other problems may also prevent teens from sleeping.

“It’s the screens, the constant ringing, vibrations, even the light can affect the natural melatonin,” Kushnir said.

Nelson, on the other hand, said she isn’t getting enough sleep because of her busy schedule. 

“I have a lot of dance and school, and I’m getting home really late,” Nelson said. “We normally have a lot of schoolwork whether it’s studying or projects. Because of that, I have to do so much of [it that] I’m not able to go to bed early.”

Gould, who gets enough sleep, said, “If you’re doing over than three hours of homework, you should stop and email your teacher…Don’t wake up as early as you can, if it’s the weekend try to sleep in.”

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that middle and high schools should start their day at 8:30 a.m. or later so that they have more time to sleep. Yet, in the same year, the AAP found that 83% of middle schools, in fact, still started before 8:30.

Even though the average teen doesn’t get enough sleep, they often realize what steps they need to take to do so.

“Not using your electronics as much and trying to separate your priorities so that you don’t have to do [everything] in one night,” said Nelson.

“I always say to my patients they should not have any screens in their bedrooms within 30 minutes prior to the time they are trying to go to sleep,” Kushnir said.

Sleep is an important aspect of life. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, cut down on screen usage before going to bed, manage your time well and if you’re up late doing homework, email teachers.