She was out of her mind. After many attempts of counting sheep and to the highest number possible before
getting distracted, Hazel had given up. Staring right past the empty glasses once containing warm milk,
Hazel watched the digital clock obnoxiously glowing 4:00am. A repeated amount of tossing and turning only
added more stress. She had reached breaking point. Even magically dozing off right now would still only
allow her three hours of sleep. No amount of coffee could prepare her for the day ahead.
Teenagers need between eight and ten hours of sleep to function best, however one sleep study found that
only 15 percent of students reported sleeping a maximum of eight and a half hours on school nights. Does
this sound familiar? Either way, you and your sleeping patterns will benefit from the following information.
Why do we sleep?
It will not surprise you that scientists have not yet reached a consensus on why we sleep. There are dozens
of different theories, however.
One theory is the Energy Conservation Theory. This theory suggests the primary function of sleep is to
reduce an individual’s energy demand during part of the day or night. Research has shown that energy
metabolism is significantly reduced during sleep.
Another theory is the Restorative Theory which is based on the longheld belief that sleep in some way
serves to “restore” what is lost in the body while we are awake. Sleep provides an opportunity for the body
to repair and rejuvenate itself.
Stages of sleep:
You may think once you go to bed you soon fall into a deep sleep lasting most of the night, progressing
back into light sleep when it’s time to wake up. In reality, the sleep cycle is a lot more complicated.
During the night, your sleep follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep restorative
sleep (NonREM) and more alert stages and dreaming (REM sleep). NonREM sleep consists of three
stages of sleep, each deeper than the last. REM sleep on the other hand is where dreaming occurs. You
enter this stage about 7090 minutes after falling asleep.
Together the stages of REM and nonREM sleep form a complete sleep cycle. Each cycle typically lasts
about 90 minutes and repeats four to six times over the course of a night.
The benefits and importance of sleep:
Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes far beyond just boosting your mood or banishing
undereye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight,
mind, and more. Health benefits which researchers have discovered about a good night’s sleep are as
Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you strengthen memories or “practice” skills
learned while you were awake. “If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you
learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, associate professor at NYU Langone Medical
Centre. “But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.” In other words if you’re
trying to learn something new—whether it’s Spanish or a new tennis swing—you’ll perform better after
sleeping. Year 12 Burnside High School student, Summer says she aims to be in bed ready to sleep no
later than 9:00pm on nights before exams as that way she remembers so much more of the studying that
she had done earlier that day.
In addition to consolidating memories, your brain appears to reorganise and restructure them, which may
result in more creativity meaning you may want to get a good night’s sleep before getting out the
paintbrushes or the pen and paper. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people
seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative
Children between the ages of 13 and 19 who experience sleeping disorders including sleep disordered
breathing are more likely to have problems with attention and learning, according to a 2010 study in the
journal Sleep. This could lead to “significant functional impairment at school,” the study authors wrote. In
another study, university students who didn’t get enough sleep had worse grades than those who did.
If you are thinking about going on a diet, you may want to plan an earlier bedtime too. Researchers at the
University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat than those who were sleep
deprived. Dieters in the study also felt hungrier when they got less sleep. “Sleep and metabolism are
controlled by the same sectors of the brain,” Dr. Rapoport says. “When you are sleepy, certain hormones
go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.” Year 12 Media Studies student, Alex says
she experiences an increase in appetite and tends to eat a lot more carbs and sugary foods as a
consequence of not getting enough sleep the previous night.
How much sleep do we need and why aren’t we getting enough?
Teenagers are notorious for not getting enough sleep. The average amount of sleep that they get is between
seven and seven and a half hours. One sleep study found only 15 percent of students reported sleeping a
maximum of eight and a half hours on school nights. However, they need between eight and ten hours to
function best. Burnside High School student, Ali explained that she cannot function properly throughout the
whole day without getting at least nine hours of sleep each night.
Teenagers do not get enough sleep for a number of reasons, for example, the shift in sleep schedule. After
puberty, there is a biological shift in an adolescent’s internal clock of about two hours, meaning that a
teenager who used to fall asleep at 9:00pm will now not be able to fall asleep until 11:00pm. It also means
waking two hours later in the morning.
Another reason why teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep includes early high school start times. Some
high schools start as early as 7:00am, meaning that some teenagers like year 12 school student, Ali, have
to get up as early as 5:00am to get ready for and travel to school. Social and school obligations is another
factor which results in teenagers not getting enough sleep as homework, sports, afterschool activities and
socializing lead to late bedtimes.
Even if you think you’re getting enough sleep, you may not be. Some of the signs that you may need more
sleep include difficulty waking up in the morning, inability to concentrate, falling asleep during classes and
feelings of moodiness and even depression.
There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount you need to
function optimally. Just because you’re able to operate on seven hours of sleep doesn’t mean you wouldn’t
feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed. The best way to figure out if
you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day. If you’re logging
enough hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long, from the moment you wake up until your regular
Consequences of not getting enough sleep:
While it may seem like losing sleep isn’t such a big deal, sleep deprivation has a wide range of negative
effects which go way beyond daytime drowsiness. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and
Not getting enough sleep or having sleep difficulties can firstly limit your ability to learn, listen, concentrate
and solve problems as well as leading to poor academic progress. Studies show that teenagers who get
less sleep are more apt to get poor grades, fall asleep in school, and have regular absences.
It can also make you prone to breakouts by contributing to acne and other skin problems. As well as this,
lack of sleep may cause you to eat too much or eat unhealthy foods like sweets and fried foods which lead
to weight gain.
Finally, lack of sleep can contribute to illness and may lead to emotional, aggressive or inappropriate
behaviour. Year 12 Media Studies student, Karen said, “I’m a bit of a wreck either way, but yeah having a
bad night’s sleep definitely contributes to how easily frustrated and emotional I find myself getting the next
It’s the primary rule of sleep hygiene: Your bedroom should be a calming, comfortable haven—designated for
sleep only. The more clutter and distractions you’re up against at night, the harder it will be to transition into
Hide digital clocks and glowing electronics from view and dim the lights or switch to a soft, bedside lamp
while you get ready for bed. Your body is programmed to sleep when it’s dark, so you can encourage that
rhythm by easing into night time.
If your bedroom is a victim to unwelcome sounds of ambulances, catfights, or whipping winds, a thick rug
and heavy blinds might help buffer the noise. Soothing CDs can also drown out disruptions, or consider
earplugs to muffle the sound completely. As your body transitions through different stages of sleep,
unexpected noise may wake you during shallower cycles.
After you’ve achieved these conditions, get rid of anything stimulating that distracts from the room’s main
purpose: sleep. That means no treadmill, no television or computer, and no reminders of anything stressful.
After listening to some soft music while soaking in the bath, Hazel took one glance at her analogue clock
showing 9:00pm and snuggled into bed feeling fresh and at ease. Ten minutes later she peacefully drifted off
into a deep snooze. There was no more counting sheep, no more obsessing over bright, digital flashing
numbers and no more tossing and turning until 4:00am. Hazel woke at 6:55am; exactly five minutes before
the time her alarm was set for. She felt more refreshed and alert than ever, no longer needing the buzz of
caffeine in her system first thing in the morning. Hazel was ready to face the day. Who knew just a few
extra hours of sleep could make such a big difference?
What to do during different times of the day to enable a better night’s sleep:
DURING THE DAY:
Increase light exposure during the day.
● Remove your sunglasses in the morning and let light onto your face.
● Spend more time outside during daylight.
● Let as much light into your home/workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open
during the day and move your workspace closer to sunlight.
● Turn off your television and computer. These devices can actually stimulate the mind, rather
than relaxing it.
● Don’t read from a backlit device at night. Use an eReader that is not backlit, for example one
that requires an additional light source such as a bedside lamp.
● Change your bright light bulbs. Avoid bright lights before bed, use lowwattage bulbs instead.
● When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll sleep.
● Use a flashlight or nightlight to go to the bathroom at night. If you wake up during the night to
use the bathroom, keep the light to a minimum so it will be easier to go back to sleep.
RIGHT BEFORE BEDTIME:
Relaxing bedtime rituals to try:
● Read a book or magazine by a soft light
● Take a warm bath
● Listen to soft music
● Do some early stretches
● Wind down with a favourite hobby
● Listen to books on tape
● Make simple preparations for the next day
How to sleep easier:
Set a regular bedtime. Going to bed at the same time each night signals to your body that it’s time to
sleep. Waking up at the same time every day also can help establish sleep patterns. So try to stick as
closely as you can to your sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Exercise regularly. Try not to exercise right before bed as it can rev you up and make it harder to fall
asleep. Finish exercising at least three hours prior to bedtime.
Avoid stimulants in the evening. Don’t drink beverages with caffeine, such as soda and coffee, after
Relax your mind. Avoid violent, scary, or action movies or television shows right before bed — anything
that might set your mind and heart racing.
Unwind by keeping the lights low. Light signals the brain that it’s time to wake up. Staying away from
bright lights as well as meditating or listening to soothing music, can help your body relax. Try to avoid TV,
computers and other electronics for at least one hour before you go to bed.
Don’t nap too much. Naps of more than 30 minutes during the day and naps too close to bedtime may
keep you from falling asleep later.
Avoid allnighters. Don’t wait until the night before a big test to study. Cutting back on sleep the night
before a test may mean you perform worse than you would if you’d studied less but got more sleep.
Wake up with bright light. Bright light in the morning signals your body that it’s time to get going. If it’s
dark in your room, it can help to turn on a light as soon as your alarm goes off.