Are you getting enough....zzzz?

At last reclining on the bed means a lot. Put your face on the fluffy pillow, slacken your bones, and let your sinews sink and rest. Your breath goes down a notch. Shut your eyes gently—now snuggle up in the soft darkness behind your eyelids, and fly into the fathomless caverns of sleep. Forget the world. It doesn’t exist for you. You die each night and resurrect with the morn. Sleep is the best tonic for body and mind. It is free, it is there in each of us. Many of us don’t consume this potent drink enough. Especially teens, who think staying awake through night is a fad. So a lot of boys and girls out there burn midnight oil—some wouldn’t put out it until day break.

They wake up groggy, weary, disoriented, and shuffle out of bed, slouch before bathroom mirrors, unable to wash sleep off their faces. Another long day with million worries is slowly opening up. Now a study says things are far worse than thought. More than their health, sleep disorders affect teens’ academic performance. As a result, many talented students flunk exams, become shallow, and awkward.

The study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard USA is an eye-opener.  They measured regular sleep patterns of 61 full-time undergraduates. They were observed for 30 days using sleep diaries.  Also they used sleep regularity index (SRI). This newly devised metric helped researchers quantify sleep regularity. Sleep regularity means sleeping and waking up cycles.

 The findings says that “going to sleep and waking up at the same time is important”. So far, all studies focused on just one thing—quantity of sleep. As a result, doctors advise teens to sleep at least 8 to nine hours. But they wouldn’t ask them to go to bed at same time each night. Having gone to bed late, some would sleep well into the day. This lie-in wouldn’t help at all.  Students with more regular sleep patterns had better school grades on average.

“We found that the body clock was shifted nearly three hours later in students with irregular schedules as compared to those who slept at more consistent times each night”, says Charles A. Czeisler senior author of the study. Irregular sleep patterns affects melatonin release. In irregular sleepers, this hormone, (released by the pineal gland, which helps control sleep and wake cycles), is released 2.6 hours later than others. Your body’s circadian clock lose track of your sleep habits. Whole affair could affect your studies.

 A tired, sleepy, groggy, exhausted student might sit confused in the classroom. Irregular sleep will affect your cognitive functions. As a result, memory will fail you.  Over time, you will build up sleep deficit or sleep debt. Those with sleep debt will have emotional disturbances as well. Most parents, and teens themselves, are in a fix. Teens want to sleep early, and spend 9 nine hours in bed; but they simply can’t.

One of the reasons is the blue lights from electronic gadgets. This provokes wakeful signals in the brain. And also, in most homes, dinner is severed very late into the night. They keep all high incandescent bulbs burning. It is all lights everywhere. Body will think it is still day. So, the brain doesn’t know to how to sleep. Eat your food early, reduce TV time, switch off lights, and now sleep.