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Teenage Sleep Deprivation: No Sleep, Lots of Problems

By: Catherine Buren

In adults, such meager sleep allowances are known to affect day-to-day functioning in a myriad of ways. In adolescents who are biologically driven to sleep longer and later than adults, the effects of insufficient sleep are likely to be even more dramatic--so much so that some sleep experts contend that the nation's early high school start times, that are becoming increasingly common, are tantamount to abuse. Is it safe to give up sleep to do homework or to deal with the pressures associated with senior year? Ask the students.

Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, ability to focus, and ability to access higher-level cognitive functions. In fact, your decision-making, reaction time, situational awareness, memory, and communication can be reduced by 20% to 50% And your levels of psychological distress rise by about 5% post-insufficient sleep. In people with anxiety, sleep deprivation may trigger the development of serious psychological disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.

The consistency of sleep patterns may have a greater impact on GPA than sleep duration. Students at risk of academic failure should be screened for a comorbid sleep disorder because insomnia is often a cause of chronic sleeplessness. Morning classes are associated with higher grades, but as your body craves rest throughout the school day, your focus dwindles. To combat this, schools need to develop sleep friendly policies and interventions. Institutions must understand which aspects of sleep have the greatest impact on academic performance, as the frequency of sleep disturbances may impact student retention.

Implications and Opinion

The findings of the recent University of Michigan study are not the first to warn of sleep deprivation’s potential adverse health effects. More than 70% of high school students, specifically high school seniors, were found to be negatively affected by a lack of sleep . Furthermore, the pressure on students to perform at higher levels to be admitted into Ivy League and other elite universities cause them to sacrifice sleep for their own academic performance. What most students don’t know, however, is that they are actually creating a detriment to their academic performance by cutting down the amount of sleep they have every night. This study is important in opening the eyes of high school students, parents, and school administrators about the dangers and future implications of sleep deprivation as it can lead to further investigations into how the cognitive defects caused by insufficient sleep can be resolved. The research conducted at the University of Michigan should encourage current studies to explore the role of sleep in the academic performance of high school students who could be considered “overachievers”. The next topic to research must be pharmacological; now that scientists have found major side effects of sleep deprivation , they have to find solutions to undo the damage to the brain’s cellular signaling patterns and the body’s reaction methods.

Primary Source:

Hershner, Shelley. “Sleep and Academic Performance: Measuring the Impact of Sleep.” Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier, 24 Dec. 2019,

Additional Sources:

{1} Fonseca, Angela Gomez, and Lisa Genzel. “Sleep and Academic Performance: Considering Amount, Quality and Timing.” Current Opinion in Behavioral

Sciences, Elsevier, 9 Jan. 2020,

{2} Carpenter, Siri. “Sleep Deprivation May Be Undermining Teen Health.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Oct. 2001,


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