Sacred Hearts Academy  |   Honolulu, Hawaii

Ka Leo

Sacred Hearts Academy  |   Honolulu, Hawaii

Ka Leo

Sacred Hearts Academy  |   Honolulu, Hawaii

Ka Leo

Teens face sleepless nights

According to a study by the Sleep Foundation, 72% of high school students get less than the recommended amount of sleep. It has become so bad that experts call it an epidemic. Photo courtesy of Canva.

Teenagers are the sleepiest generation, but they’re not the ones getting the most shut-eye. Sleep–or the lack thereof–is nothing new among youth; however, it has become so widespread, it’s now considered an epidemic. From academic stress to hormonal changes, it is not going away anytime soon. And while some say it’s an innate part of a youth’s development, practicing several positive habits may finally allow teenagers to catch those Z’s.

Sleep deprivation caused by academic stress, social media and hormonal changes results in a wide range of consequences for teenagers. From physical and emotional health issues to impaired decision-making and learning, poor sleeping habits can have a significant impact on a teenager’s well-being and development. 

Many teens are involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs and volunteering. These can contribute to their lack of sleep. For example, practicing before a game or finishing a project can take up most of their time. 

Teenagers are also inclined to stay up late to watch movies, scroll through social media and more. This can further disrupt their sleeping schedule. According to an article by the National Library of Medicine, “The frequency of social media use, particularly in the evenings, is related to a delay in bedtime, more difficulties falling asleep, a shorter sleep duration, and a poorer sleep quality.”

The emotional effects of sleep deprivation can be overwhelming for teenagers. For instance, teenagers are more prone to experience anxiety, frustration or stress due to the constant pressure of trying to balance different aspects of their lives. Not getting enough sleep can also increase teenagers’ “risk of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. It can also affect academic performance at school,” according to an article published in Better Health.

Many teens continue to struggle with getting enough sleep. According to a study by the Child Mind Institute, some reports say 70% of teens are getting less than the minimum and recommended nine hours of sleep. As a result, teens are left to navigate the world and their experiences while operating on a sleep-deprived lifestyle.

“There are rare moments when I can have a good amount of sleep through the night,” said Chelstine Tavares, who gets an average of five hours of sleep per night. 

“Due to also being a night owl, it’s easier for me to sleep in the morning than it is for me to fall asleep at night. You end up waking up feeling burnt out,” she said.

Tavares said that her insufficient sleep not only impairs her focus but also prevents her from working promptly or at a level where she can “give her 110%,” she said. Frequently, the lack of sleep also influences her mood, leading to outbursts towards her friends that could potentially strain their relationships.

In an article featured in “Scientific American,” emphasis is placed on the notion that a concerning trend is affecting teenagers. Dr. Mestisa Gass, from Mental Health America of Hawaii, addresses the article.

“I would agree. There has been an increase in sleep deprivation for teens,” she said. “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of teens getting eight or more hours fell from 31% in 2007 to 22% in 2019.”

Dr. Gass outlined the impact of inadequate sleep on a teenager’s physical and emotional well-being. 

Reading before bedtime is part of junior Anna Casupang’s nightly routine. Unlike many teens, she says she gets enough sleep every night. Photo courtesy of Christopher Casupang.

“Sleep deprivation can cause issues with concentrating, mood swings, hyperactivity, nervousness and aggressive behaviors,” she said. 

There is a contradictory perspective surrounding teenagers and their insufficient sleep, deeply embedded in the pervasive myth that such a pattern is deemed a “normal” part of adolescent development. This prevailing belief suggests that the sleep challenges experienced by teens are an inherent and anticipated aspect of their developmental journey, contributing to a widespread misconception about the nature of their sleep needs. This is simply not the case.

It is an epidemic that is not going away anytime soon; however, junior Anna Casupang explains how there are still ways to combat it. She maintains a regular sleep schedule by going to bed at 10:30 p.m. to ensure she gets at least eight hours of sleep. She prefers to work on her homework during the day and developed a routine that allows her to fall asleep at a decent time despite being involved in theater, which sometimes keeps her out until 9 p.m. 

“I read before going to sleep,” she said. “And I fall asleep listening to lo-fi music.”

Casupang expresses her acknowledgment of the issue of teen sleep deprivation, stating that she cannot comprehend how people can function without proper sleep.

Infographic by Nahiku Evaimalo

What are other strategies teens can use to improve sleep habits? 

According to Dr. Gass, “One of the things that can be helpful is the idea of unwinding and de-stressing before bedtime. Things like stretching can help you relax and ease muscle tension that you pick up during the day. If you’re someone who has racing thoughts, keep a notebook by your bed and dump those ideas out.”

Dr. Gass offers guidance on assisting teenagers in monitoring and enhancing their sleep quality. She recommends utilizing mindfulness and relaxation apps to foster a more tranquil state of mind. 

Additionally, there are apps designed to monitor sleep patterns and provide helpful tips. In cases where a teenager is grappling with sleep-related challenges, Dr. Gass suggests maintaining a sleep diary for a comprehensive overview of their sleep and associated behaviors over a two-week period, which can then be shared with their doctor for a more accurate assessment.

Tavares shared that she has a habit of journaling and listening to R&B music before bed, helping her calm down and fall asleep. 

“My thoughts run faster than my hand,” she said. “I need to let it all out on paper.” 

In the face of this pandemic, we are reminded by Dr. Gass that, “We are all living in an extraordinarily stressful time” and must be mindful of ourselves and sleep hygiene. Empowering teenagers to prioritize their well-being, encouraging a balanced approach to their commitments and fostering a mindful approach to their digital presence can serve as a beacon of hope in reclaiming a restful slumber, nurturing their growth and resilience.

About the Contributor
Nāhiku Evaimalo
Nāhiku Evaimalo, Reporter
Nāhiku Evaimalo is a first-year Journalism student and senior at the Academy. She is enthralled to improve her communication and connectivity with the people at Sacred Hearts Academy. She hopes to engage in meaningful conversation with her classmates and fellow lower-classmen. In her free time, Nāhiku loves to read and write novels, which acts as a creative outlet and feeds into her passion to inspire and teach. A fun fact about her is that she really loves Jazz! Her favorite artists include Etta James, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, etc. (If you ever need someone to ‘jazz’ out with, she is more than happy to do so!) 
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