Wildcat Wellness: Sleep

Kyra Fleischman '17, Writer

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Hello my fellow sleep-deprived teenagers, today we’re going to talk about your Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN)! Well- just for a little bit, don’t worry. The SCN is the part of your brain that controls your body’s circadian rhythm, or cycles of sleep and wakefulness. Basically, it tells your body when to feel tired and when to feel awake. You would hope that you would feel most tired during, you know, nighttime, but this is not necessarily the case. Teenagers actually experience the strongest dips in their circadian rhythm between 3-7 AM and 2-5 PM. So yes, your after school naps are justified in the name of science. Additionally, if you do not get adequate sleep (8-10 hours), these dips can last for much longer. Does that explain why getting out of bed on school days feels as difficult as fighting seven fire breathing dragons while pogo sticking? Yeah, me too… Also, the hormone that makes people tired is often produced later at night in teenagers than in adults, making it difficult to get to bed early. Therefore, most teenagers do not get adequate sleep and report symptoms of lack of concentration, lack of focus, exhaustion, dizziness, depression and stress. People who consistently do not get enough sleep are also more likely to get sick with short term and long term illnesses. Additionally, people are more prone to careless or irrational behavior. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 crashes are because of driver fatigue.

So, what can you do while you are waiting for schools to get the memo and change their start times to match teenagers circadian rhythms? Try not to look at bright screens before bed. They interrupt your sleep cycle! Also, turn on the ‘night shift’ feature on the iPhone, which makes the screen less harsh when it is evening time. Most importantly, make sleep a priority! Set a consistent bedtime and wake up time and try to stick to it at best as you can. If you are over scheduled, sleep pays the cost. Consequently, your health and your happiness pay the cost too. If you are exhausted, listen to your body and skip practice, so you can go to bed early. Don’t let anyone tell you that something else comes before your health.

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