Study: Students are not getting enough sleep |

Study: Students are not getting enough sleep

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribue / Whittell High School students and sisters Erin Bechtol, 16, left, and Faith Bechtol, 15, relax in a hallway during their lunch break on Thursday.

Scoring more As may require getting more Zs for the 45 percent of adolescents nationwide who claim they don’t get enough sleep.

And with a return to daylight-saving time requiring the clocks of most Americans to spring forward an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday, feeling rested could get more difficult next week.

According to the 2006 National Sleep Foundation poll, 60 percent of American students between the ages of 11 and 17 are apt to experience the consequences of inadequate sleep. The weary may end up cranky, depressed, out of shape, wired on energy drinks, or worse yet, hurt from nodding off at the wheel.

School officials point to the growing number of distractions teens have these days – iPods, televisions, Internet, cell phones, jobs and anxiety over tests. Nine in 10 children and teenagers polled have an electronic device in their room. Three quarters of these adolescents reported consuming caffeine from coffee to energy drinks. It’s a nation of jitters.

Lake Tahoe students from Whittell to South Tahoe high schools are no exception to the sleep problem. A few Whittell students were sprawled out on the floor Thursday because they said they were tired.

Faith Bechtol, 14, began high school this year. She said her homework has kept her awake – sometimes until 1 a.m. Her older sister Erin, 16, sat beside her, citing the age of scoring accountability as one reason for the weariness.

“Testing takes a lot out of you,” the sophomore said.

Siobhan Curley pointed to an assortment of pressures and commitments – from cheerleading and track competition to her job at Scruples and advanced placement classes.

“I never get eight hours of sleep. For me, taking honors classes makes me do my homework late,” she said of the recommended amount.

She made up for it last Monday, staying in bed that morning instead of going to school because she was too weak to get up.

When asked how she would respond to her parents imposing an 11 p.m. bedtime curfew, she replied: “I’d get an F.”

Whittell Principal Janie Gray said she’s seen many children with these kinds of pressures leading to the lack of sleep.

“It impacts Whittell – even though we’re an academically focused high school. We have kids who do community service. And the competitive college selection adds another layer of rigor,” Gray said.

She’s even noticed some teens working to bring money home to their households, the same thing South Tahoe High School teacher Janna Gard has seen in her English classes.

“A lot of these kids work after school. Late into the evening they’ll do their homework. They’re certainly sleep deprived,” Gard said.

The standard evening for family households could also be thrown off by parents who do shift work – mainly at the casinos.

“Those kids are certainly in a different world,” she said.

Gard said the school’s new start time prompted by concerned parents and teachers has made a world of difference though. Students who once started at 7:20 a.m. now kick off the school day at 7:55 p.m.

South Tahoe nurse Margaret McKean said she’s heard of at least one student “passing out” on school grounds because of a lack of sleep. Much of the reaction to lack of sleep may point to the chemical makeup of students.

“Some kids are morning kids. Some are night kids,” she said.

Either way, McKean doesn’t suggest that parents buy into the surging popularity of insomnia drugs like Ambien for their children. Some pharmaceuticals even warn of side effects like insomnia.

But there are times when overlooked medical conditions may call for intervention, according to Dr. Michael Sullivan, a local neurologist. Sullivan said he’s noticing teenagers with sleep disorders.

“We’ll probably see more of that because of childhood obesity,” he said.

Exercise among other things has shown to help get people to sleep. Other tips range from relaxing before you go to bed to limiting alcohol intake.

Insomnia tips for teens

— Try to get at least eight hours of sleep.

— Relax before you go to bed.

— Say no to all-nighters.

— Avoid naps at odd hours, in particular, right before your designated sleeping time.

— Exercise regularly.

— Get at least one half hour of sunlight within 30 minutes of getting out of bed.

— Refrain from smoking, or at least not after 7 p.m.

— Stay away from caffeinated drinks, especially late in the evening.

— Limit alcohol intake.

— Keep your sleeping room dark, well ventilated and without disturbances.

— Evaluate your sleeping surface and pillow.

— Avoid heavy meals late at night.

— Do not drink or eat heavily within three hours of bedtime.

— Turn off cell phone.

— Take a warm bath before bed.

— Consume a hot drink prior to sleeping.

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