Right, so I was browsing Medical News Today when I came across an article entitled “Teenagers increasingly not getting enough sleep”. This title drew me in right away, as (being a teenager), sleep is something which I think about quite a lot. Well, anyway, this article stated that over the last 20 years, the number of hours a teenager sleep each night, in the US, has been decreasing and that female students, racial and ethnic minorities and students of lower socioeconomic status were least likely to report regularly getting 7 or more hours sleep each night. The largest decrease in the number of adolescents getting 7 or more hours of sleep every night was among 15-year-olds. In 1991, 72% of this age group regularly got 7 or more hours of sleep, and by 2012, this figure had fallen to 63%.

So, apparently, we (teenagers) are meant to get 8-10 hours of sleep each night, which I confess, I don’t get (hmm…for me it’s more like 5/5.5 hours during term time). According to the article, this bad sleep pattern of mine could impair my abilities to think and reason, leading to academic problems (oh dear…not good for exam season…), and make me more prone to pimples and mood swings (uh oh…). Lack of sleep also has links with, mental health issues and substance abuse (oo err!). Also, linking in with another article on MNT, losing just half an hour’s sleep in the long term could lead to weight gain and affect your metabolism- Researchers calculated that for every 30 minutes of weekday sleep debt there was an associated 17% increased risk of obesity and 39% increased risk of insulin resistance. Another study published in The Journal of Paediatrics found that chronic lack of sleep and sleep-related breathing problems each double the risk of a child being obese by the age of 15. So yeah, all this losing sleep is not good in any way at all…

Well, what could be causing this decline in sleeping hours? Well, some of the cases could be down to treatable conditions such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea, but I believe that one cause could be due to the increase in electronic devices and teenagers increasing reliance on them (and also the younger age at which children are introduced to electronics…I mean, personally I think it’s slightly ridiculous, seeing an eight year old with an I-phone, or parents sticking their toddlers in front of a tablet to keep them entertained…what happened to a good old story or a game of eye spy? …sorry, rant over…). The blue light from screens trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime, inhibiting the production of the hormone melatonin (which tells the brain and body that it’s time to get tired and go to sleep) from the pineal glands. This then keeps you awake after screen time- which means you should put down your phone, laptop, tablet… about an hour before bed time…maybe read a book instead…or do yoga…or revise (although that will keep your brain active…so maybe not…)…maybe have a nice hot bath and listen to some classical music (or baroque…or romantic…well, you get the picture… (but maybe not 20th Century…)).

Another cause could be the caffeine. Yes, I know, I do love a nice cup of tea as much as the next person, but the amount of caffeine in energy drinks and fizzy drinks such as coke (and actually, diet coke is worse…) is actually ridiculously high and these are increasingly being consumed by teenagers. The Caffeine keeps you awake by binding to adenosine receptors in the brain, in the place of adenosine (which slows down nerve cell activity, causing drowsiness and also causes blood vessels to dilate). Because the caffeine is bound to the receptors, they cannot sense the adenosine, causing the cells to speed up rather that slow down, and causes the brains blood vessels to constrict. This makes you more alert instead of calming you down for the night… so maybe just have a glass of hot milk before bed J (but I hate to say, not hot chocolate…as that also contains caffeine…and sugar…).

Well, sorry for all this doom and gloom…but I’ve thought of another solution…school should start later! That would mean we could have a nice lie in J! But yeah, that’s never going to happen L. Anyway, it’s getting late, so to make sure I get my 8-10 hours of sleep tonight I’d better get off this screen and start winding down… Goodnight! Sleep tight people!

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