Man was placed on the earth with the basic instinct to survive in a dangerous world. One of these instincts was to rest everyday for a period of time while the sun was down. Today, with our advancements in science and medicine, sleep remains to be one of those basic instincts still to be explained. Mosby s Medical, Nursing, & Allied Health Dictionary defines sleep as a state marked by reduced consciousness, diminished activity of the skeletal muscles, and depressed metabolism (Mosby NP). This definition gives insight to the perspective of sleep by defining it as a state of relaxation within the body. However, what does it do?
What higher purpose does it serve? The science behind sleep remains a mystery, but the effects of it and the deprivation of sleep on the body, are displayed daily as an influence in the performance of youths during the day. An enigma, wrapped within a puzzle comes to mind when thinking of sleep. Sleep is not a tangible object that can be caged and studied. It is more of a concept to be understood. An animal can live without sleep just as long as it can survive without eating (Dahl 354). This fact points out just how important sleep is when considering it a necessity, equal to the necessity of eating.
One third of most people s lives are spent asleep, or attempting to sleep (Swanson 96). Facts such as these show little insight into sleep, but show how far science has come in its understanding of the concepts concerning it. Science and technology has attempted to push beyond these concepts by continuing to ask why, designing new experiments to answer their questions. This method of questioning has allowed for an understanding of what sleep is, and how it works. Researchers have broken the science of sleep into two types that can be measured by brain waves.
One phase of sleep called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is named for the spastic movement of the eyes under the eyelids. Another name for REM sleep is active sleep (Gottlieb 80). REM sleep occurs mostly in the morning hours, and is when dreaming occur. The other type of sleep is called NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep, which leaves a sense of refreshment to the body. NREM sleep is also called quiet sleep (Gottlieb 81). Stages of sleep alternate between REM and NREM states that are characterized by brain waves, muscle activity, eye movements, heart function, and breathing (Cohen 8).
These characteristics can be measured using observation, and sophisticated instruments such as an encephalograph (Mosby NP). The encephalograph measures brain waves and records them for analysis. This is how stages are distinguished (Cohen 8). NREM has four stages in it that range from stage I, which is drowsiness, to stage IV, which is deep sleep (Gottlieb 81). Stage I is a short period that lasts about five minutes, and is the transitional period from being drowsy to being asleep. Stage II is often called light sleep, and lasts between ten to forty-five minutes (Cohen 8).
Stage III begins the first instance of deep sleep; where the brain, heart, lungs, and muscles relax and slow down. Stage IV is described as the deepest sleep, and together with stage III lasts up to sixty minutes (Cohen 9). NREM occurrences include night terrors, sleeptalking, and sleepwalking (Gottlieb 81), which occur when a body wakes incompletely while they are not dreaming (Cohen 155). Researchers believe that memories are stored in long-term memory during REM sleep. This is due to the activity of nerve cells during REM sleep, which is active sleep (Cohen 9).
This understanding of sleep goes beyond the concepts of rest. By digging deeper, researchers have found many logical aspects of sleep that give us insight to understanding. With this understanding, we can see the aspects of health that stem from a resting body. Today, the health and welfare of the American youth has gone into a slump. One of the essential components of a healthy body is sleep, and today s teenagers just are not getting enough (Bates 32). As a body gets older, the necessities of sleep increases. During sleep, minor damage is repaired such as tissue damage, and minor pains(Cohen 5).
This would be especially important for the scrapes and bruises that accompany outside activities for youths. Teenagers push their natural sleep onset later in the night (Bates 32). This is due to the urge of the adolescent to push their bedtime later in the evening (Weissbluth 39). Teenagers need between nine to ten hours of sleep, but most teenagers are getting seven hours of sleep on average (Cohen 187). The main regulator of sleep in the body is the biological clock. It is not an actual body part, but a regulator of the circadian rhythm of the body.
The circadian rhythm is the body s knowledge of the time of day, when it is time to sleep, and when it is time to wake (Cohen 6). The biological clock induces sleep using a chemical called melatonin. This chemical sets the time to go to sleep by relaxing the body, putting it to rest. Other chemicals and hormones are also released during sleep that are vital to growth and sexual maturation (Brownlee 54). To growing adolescents, the excretion of these hormones are important in healthy growth and development. This ideal stress the importance of obtaining sufficient sleep each night for teenagers.
Unfortunately, the most common sleep disorder among teenagers is a sleep phase shift (Cohen 189). One phase is equal to the normal hours of sleep in which one sleeps in a twenty four hour period, such as, from ten o clock p. m. to seven o clock a. m. When this time is cut off to go to school, the phase is shifted into another time (Cohen 190). This shift is also known as a phase delay (Bates 32). It is similar to what travelers call jet lag, when the body readjusts to the times in a new setting. At the turn of adolescence, night sleep changes in stage III and stage IV of NREM sleep with a decrease in the time spent in each stage (Cohen 187).
This means a biological decrease in the deep stages of sleep that leave one refreshed and rejuvenated. The problem in this is that older people do not get enough of the good sleep and have to spend more time sleeping. Many studies are now being produced to show this, and stress the importance of additional sleep. The University of Chicago preformed a study that showed a relationship between teens that get fewer than four hours of sleep a night, and an added risk of various disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and memory loss ( Lack of Sleep 29).
A sleep researcher by the name of Eve Van Canter had to say, People try to sleep as little as possible and do as many things as possible, but our study is telling us that chronic sleep loss may increase the severity of widespread age-related chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and cognitive defects ( Lack of Sleep 29). The aspect of sleep affecting our health is a real issue that most Americans face. In the end, a healthy body needs a multitude of hours in rest. Ms. Canter s statement shows how sleep can have dangerous effects on our lives when we do not do it responsibly.
Sleep deprivation may be defined as the interference of the basic physiologic urge to sleep, which is governed by the sleep centers (Mosby NP). Most Americans are sleep deprived (Swanson 96). This statement holds too true in describing the general American public. If you need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning, you are not getting enough sleep states Mark Mahowald, director of the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis (Swanson 96). Most people would not wake up in time for the day s activities if they had no alarm.
This is not good in the fact that one has to force one s self out of sleep to do their daily activity. This state leaves a person in an automatic sleep mode where they are seemingly functional, but not all awake. Point in case would be a night reader who reads what is on the page at night, but does not comprehend what he or she reads (Bates 32). When a person puts him/herself in the hectic lifestyles we lead, it pushes their limits on how long they can stay awake. Unfortunately, no anti-sleep aid can prevent sleep.
When the body reaches its limits, it goes to sleep (Swanson 96). For teens, this problem is a major concern. In the pursuit to educate, we often seem to dismiss those students who tend not to do so well, and who fall asleep. Melatonin, the biological clock chemical that induces sleep, has been found in high levels among active teenagers in high school (Brownlee 54). In addition, school is not a stimulating environment to all students, and boredom makes sleepiness apparent (Swanson 96). This leaves students in a battle to combat tiredness in the day (Cohen 5).
Some students resort to hyperactivity and difficult behavior in class (Cohen 5), while others respond with silliness, impulsive behavior, and depression (Dahl 354). These behaviors complicate and disrupt classroom learning for all students. The Lack of REM specific sleep has been shown to lower alertness, and reaction time (Brownlee 54). This could be a crucial point in considering driving behaviors of high school students. In a study preformed on high school students, seventeen percent of one hundred and sixty-six students have reported falling asleep at the wheel.
It also shown that thirty-five percent of the students reported that they felt sleep deprivation impaired their driving ability (Lamberg 859). With this thought in mind, one is amazed when considering how many students drive to school in the mornings, and who drive home late from various high school events and activities that occur late in the evening. Another question being asked is how does sleep deprivation effect grades in the classroom. The A and B students generally go to bed earlier than the D and F students (Lamberg 859).
On average, students in the higher-grade category obtained thirty-five more minutes of sleep than in the lower grade category. The issue behind this goes back to REM sleep. When teens wake up before their biological clocks have instructed, they miss out on the very important REM part of their sleep cycle. REM sleep boosts memory and learning, sends chemicals to integrate important information into the long-term memory, and resets the short-term memory (Brownlee 54). Sleep deprivation has showed its power in our society by keeping a constant hold on its people.
A cause of this deprivation of sleep can also be pointed at the phase delay or phase shift as mentioned. When a student goes to bed at ten to eleven o clock p. m. as his/her body naturally pushes, the time to wake up would be from seven to eight o clock a. m. However, because of school, and other early morning activities, most teens must wake up at six o clock in the morning to make their seven o clock bells (Lamberg 895). This strain on student life alone is abundant, causing countless hours of sleep loss.
It would seem to be easy to tell students to go to bed earlier, but this would contradict the biological clock, which has set itself to a specific time later than what would be needed (Lamberg 899). The mysteries behind the science of sleep remain to be an enigma. The effects of sleep, the deprivation of sleep on the body, and how it ultimately influences the performance of youths during the day is one mystery that has now been uncovered. The lack of sleep is profoundly shown in the day-to-day lives of most people.
Performances at school, work, and home, can be effected by how one has slept the night before. When the first man arrived on earth he was given a set of instincts that went toward one goal, survive. This goal has only been aggravated by the need for sleep, for it left man vulnerable, for hours in the night. From this dilemma evolved the first house for protection while sleep. Then came the first bed for a comfortable sleep, and so forth until there was the first electroencephalograph that measured brain waves to explain sleep.
The evolution of man did not derive from sleep, but the questioning and deep understanding desired form it has allowed man to push his limits. However, have we gone too far? Has the desire to know push our sleeping habits to the brink of elimination? Can the children of today cope with a society that is constantly going, never stopping for sleep? These questions have yet to be answered, but there are facts well known. The sleeping habits of adolescents will have to changed in order for us to lead healthy lives. The youth of America are in fact sleep deprived. The only question left is what will be done about it.