It’s midnight and you realize you still have three homework assignments to complete by tomorrow. You realize you’ve been working since you got home at 4:30… where did the time go? If you don’t complete those three assignments, your GPA will suffer as consequence. What do you do?
For Ursuline girls, this problem is an accurate part of our reality. Concerned with getting straight A’s, our outfit to Friday’s football game, and college applications, sleep is the least of our worries. What you may not know, however, is that getting a sufficient amount of sleep will actually make your life a whole lot easier.
We all know that sleeping an average of 8-10 hours each night is highly recommended for teens. However, that may be easier said than done. “Because [teenagers] are biologically programmed to stay up late, it can be difficult for teens to get this much rest on a routine basis.” We’ve all had those days when we feel extremely tired all day, only to ironically struggle falling asleep that night; here’s why: “During adolescence, teens experience a biological shift to a later sleep-wake cycle. For teens, melatonin release occurs later in the evening—usually around 11 p.m.—and drops later in the morning.”
Psychologists agree that “At all stages of life, the brain is active during sleep—consolidating memories and processing emotions, refreshing cells and clearing out build-up of waste materials that can slow or damage brain function.” Modern psychologists are still researching the massive effects sleep has on the brain, however, they have accumulated shocking data so far. “Very few teens—as little as 15 percent—are getting the sleep that they need…about 85 percent of teenagers are sleeping less than 8 ½ hours a night.”
Not getting enough sleep can seriously take toll on your mental & physical health, social life, mood, and academic performance. As a matter of fact, trouble with memory, difficulty learning, poor judgment, irritability, suicidal thoughts, and difficulty getting along with others are only a few short and long term side effects that come with lack of sleep.
Sleep is just as important to our overall health as is a balanced diet and doing exercise regularly. The brain’s pre-frontal cortex, or the area of the brain responsible for decision making and emotional regulation, “is among the last areas of the brain to develop, and undergoes significant maturation during teenage years. This part of the brain is especially sensitive to the effects of sleep deprivation.”
Not to mention, lack of sleep can also be a threat to teens’ safety, especially while driving. “Drowsy driving is very similar to drunk driving. Research shows that being even a few hours short on sleep—sleeping 4-5 hours a night—may make drivers as impaired behind the wheel as driving drunk.”
With this crucial information in mind, you may be wondering if there are practical and logical tactics Ursuline girls can use to improve their sleep cycle. Thankfully, the answer is yes; getting accustomed to taking a warm shower and turning off all electronics at least an hour before bed, as well as trying to sleep and wake up around the same times daily will dramatically improve your health.
Whether you feel relaxed when you light up your favorite candle, take a warm shower, or cuddle up in a fluffy blanket, you will ultimately create a habit and begin to look forward to creating a more consistent sleep cycle. Instead of looking into constructing a new sleep cycle as a bothersome task, take advantage of this time to practice self-care and do things that make you feel at ease. The benefits that come with getting 8-10 hours of sleep each night definitely make it worthwhile. So take a warm shower, put on your PJ’s, and have sweet dreams!