Getting a good night’s rest is an important part of teenage development. Young people should be getting an average of nine of hours of sleep every night in order for their bodies to mature and for their brains to function at maximum capacity. Without an adequate night of sleep, teenagers may struggle with concentration, experience erratic behaviour and suffer from heightened emotions in their day-to-day lives. If sleep deprivation is persistent, long-term health troubles may even begin to arise. It can cause your heart rate to increase contributing to high blood pressure. Sleep deprived teenagers could even experience paranoia or hallucinations. Furthermore, as the production of hormones is disrupted without sleep, it can often facilitate depression.
More and more young people are not getting the required amount of sleep they need. A recent study found that over half of teenagers in the United Kingdom are suffering from some form of sleep deprivation. There are a myriad of reasons why a young person might be consistently unable to get an undisturbed nine hours of sleep. Their bedroom might not be a relaxing environment if there is too much light, noise or discomfort; habits like smoking or drinking coffee may be keeping them awake; or perhaps they are allergic to their bedding (a surprisingly common occurrence) and need it replaced with allergy-friendly bedding instead.
Many experts, however, agree that technology is the primary factor facilitating the rise in sleep deprivation among young people. As teenagers rely on electronic devices more than ever before, this is contributing to problems for almost an entire generation. It is bad for their education, mental health and development. Russell Foster, professor of Circadian Neuroscience at Oxford University, told the BBC: “The data that is emerging suggests these computer screens and gaming devices may well have a big effect in increasing levels of alertness. That will make it harder to get to sleep.”
People, after all, are only able to sleep when their minds are relaxed. Performing tasks that keep the brain alert, such as playing smartphone games before going to bed, do not allow the mind to settle into a slumber. Sleepedia says that tasks requiring mental capacity like problem solving be avoided close to bedtime. These hobbies should be replaced with reading a book or listening to music, both of which many people find relaxing prior to going to bed.
Technology can be detrimental to your sleep regardless of what tasks you perform though. Normally, darkness tells the body that it is time for bed. Melatonin, the hormone that tells your body it is tired, is produced at a higher rate when less light hits the cells inside your eyes. However, when you use a smartphone or tablet at night, the blue light from the screen essentially tricks your body into thinking it is not yet time to sleep. The production of melatonin is reduced when the light hits the cells in your eyes.
The usage of technologies like smartphones, tablets and e-readers should be altered or limited in the hour leading up to bedtime in order to ensure that teenagers get the sleep they require. It does not just allow young people to perform better throughout the following day; it guarantees that their bodies are developing in the way that every teenagers should. Young people should consider turning off their phone before sleeping, or enabling a “night mode” that reduces the brightness and colour so that it is easier on the eyes. Phones should also be kept on “airplane mode” if they are next to you during the night so that notifications and push alerts do not interrupt your sleep.