Name: Hannah Thompson Magazine article for:
School: International School of Toulouse CosmoGirl Magazine
Centre Number: FR042 Audience:
Candidate Number: 420 This magazine is for 14-17 year old girls
To educate the audience about the effects of lack of sleep,
and how they can help themselves
Teens and Tiredness
The Endless Battle Against Dreary Days and Maddening Mornings
Meet Katie, a 15-year-old girl from Surrey. Never mind Tom Cruise, she knows exactly what it’s like
to face Mission:Impossible – she does it every morning at 9:00 am, at a desk at school. In fact, school is
Mission:Impossible II, Number I has already been tackled. That was just getting to school in the first place.
Joining millions of teenagers around the world, her brain struggles to keep her awake, and like millions of
teenagers around the world, her eyelids win the battle, she tries not to succumb to the haze of sleep, and
the overbearing, frowning teacher is a helpless reminder of the forbidden. Sleep.
Sound familiar? It should do. As a teenager, chances are you’re tired now as you read this, that at
least a small part of you would like to go to sleep, fall into the soft bed and the dark peace of slumber. But
you can’t. Because it’s the middle of the day, or the morning, and you’ve got to get ready for school, or
you’re at school, or you’ve got homework to do. Even if, by some stroke of luck, you didn’t have all that that
to do, you still can’t just go to bed whenever you feel like it. Unfortunately.
We’ve all been there. Ever been woken up at the weekend by the sound of your little brother running
round the house making brum-brum noises with his toy cars? Jumping around the house whining or
screaming? Your mother or father barging into your bedroom to do some inane little job, and telling you
relentlessly to move yourself out of bed and do something useful? Well I have. But what is really ironic is
that I would love to get up early, feeling alert and refreshed, with the whole day in front of me to do whatever
I want, and still have hours left to do my homework at a nice, leisurely pace. But sadly, this is not possible. I,
like so many teenagers, have to concentrate for at least half an hour before my muscles get into gear to
allow the perilous journey between lying down in bed and sitting up. And even this happens only post-10: 30
am. If, by the time the weekend rolls around, I somehow manage to get up around 9 a.m., my parents lose
their appetite in surprise. As lazy as it might seem, this may not just be bad behaviour. Reading this article
may arm you with some strong evidence against your parents’ rigorous wake-up calls.
So, prop up a cushion, curl up a duvet, and proceed.
Let’s have a look at what makes you sleepy in the first place. As you might have guessed, sleep-
patterns become, according to society, strangely and annoyingly erratic around the teenage years. Due to
those oh-so-wonderful hormonal changes in the body, teenagers need more sleep than their parents or
younger siblings, and often need many more hours sleeping than their timetable allows. Who hasn’t wished
that there were more hours in the day to fit EVERYTHING in at least once in their life?
So, when the sun goes down, the body will eventually start to secrete a substance called “melatonin”,
also known as the “darkness hormone”. This is the one that makes you feel sleepy. Studies have shown that
the average adult starts to produce melatonin at 10pm. In teenagers, melatonin only starts working at 1am,
which means teenagers just don’t feel tired until it’s too late to get enough sleep. With wakeup times in
Western Europe being between 6 and 8 on school days, waking up can be hard to do.
It’s important to know how sleep works to really understand it. Don’t fret – not more stuff to learn –
it’s easy. Basically, there are 5 stages of sleep. Each stage can be categorised into either “Rapid Eye
Movement” or REM, and “Non-Rapid Eye Movement” or NREM. It’s been found that teenagers tend to have
more REM than NREM, and this occurs towards the morning. Teenagers also have more REM sleep than
other ages. This table explains a bit more about the stages in the Land of Nod.
STAGE ONE Within the first minutes of trying to sleep you’ll be in and out of consciousness fairly
quickly, whilst feeling more and more relaxed. Those pesky stress hormones
usually start to drop around now.
STAGE TWO This is the first stage of really being asleep. You’re unconscious, digestion
processes slow down, and only bright lights or loud noises will wake you.
STAGE THREE This is deep sleep, which can be embarrassing at sleepovers! You know
someone’s got to Stage Three when the snoring starts. (Kick them! It’s the only
way!) Your heart rate slows and blood pressure drops.
STAGE FOUR You’ll enter Stage Four for about 3 or 4 hours, and sleep deeply. By now, all your
organs have started to slow down, and only incredibly loud noises, huge changes
in temperature, vigorous moving, or halogen lights will wake you. (PS. Don’t let
your family read this!)
STAGE FIVE This is when you enter REM, (Rapid-Eye Movement) so called because you can
see someone’s eyes flickering as they dream.
Brain cells fire and blood pressure rises, while the rest of the body concentrates on
keeping you virtually paralysed, because we can’t have everyone going around
acting out their dreams (not everyone can have a piece of Orlando Bloom
pie…grrr…) REM sleep is very deep, and it’s when you dream. That’s why that
alarm clock is a pain in the neck…just as you were getting to the good bit!
Late nights blamed on watching the last episode of Friends are all very well, (…but they’re like, so
gripping!) and of course, staying up all hours can be avoided with a little effort, but many teenagers still find
it impossible to nod off before midnight. The “sleep hormone”, melatonin, can also alter teenage behaviour.
Basically, if you keep living to a rhythm of late nights, because of an overload of work, stress, computer
games, nights out, TV, magazines, calling friends, or the Internet, your sleep patterns can be permanently
altered. This means that even in a rare moment of peace, teenagers can still not get to bed when they want,
and, despite muscles feeling completely worn out, cannot drop off until their “normal” time, which is well into
the early hours of the morning.
The widely agreed benchmark of 8 hours sleep a night is a good one, but this only really applies to
adults of 25 years and over. Teenagers need at least 9 hours 15 minutes of sleep to really feel satisfied
upon waking. Despite this, the amount of average hours of sleep for teenagers between 13 and 17 is a mere
6. Lack of sleep isn’t just annoying, as we all know. It’s a constant feeling of dogged weariness, a haze of
dull feelings, and an inability to be interested in anything or anyone.
It has been suggested that crucial stages in a teenager’s development occur during the night,
including sexual maturation, as well as vital stages in growth. A kind of “recharging battery” action happens
in the brain, where memory is consolidated, (so THAT’S why I never remember maths…) and things learned
that day are stored in the brain’s millions of “filing cabinets”.
According to statistics, your parents have never placed a high priority on sleep, preferring instead to
watch television, work, talk on the phone, or read. They are raising a generation of high-powered, all
rounded, hugely busy, openly social, technology-interested and completely exhausted individuals. You.
School days are characterised by dreary mornings. A recent survey amongst 15 and 16 year olds in
Toulouse, France, proved that teenagers definitely do feel the sleep deprivation, and the lucky few who
manage a hour or two more sleep the night before brag to classmates, and are greeted with jealous,
sluggish grumbling about how much others wish they had been able to hit the sack as early as 10pm.
Instead, Maths coursework prevailed, and a new breed of Neanderthal stayed up, working.
When some schools in the States decided to start later in the day, positive results in work and
behaviour proved that this is not simply a myth started by a few sleep-deprived teenagers. More sleep really
DOES have an effect. Certainly, it’s better than chronic fatigue. Some symptoms are unbearable.
SOME SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
Depression (a serious illness in itself that cannot just be cured with lots of sleep.)
Anxiety and panic attacks.
Daytime sleepiness and inability to concentrate on important things at school and home.
Moodiness and mood swings.
Inability to cope with anything, from the smallest things like dropping a pencil on the floor, to
important, nerve-racking things like exams.
Acceleration of the onset of diabetes, especially in girls.
Obesity and feelings of low-self confidence
Dulling of skin, eyes and hair
Weakening of nails and bones
TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Drink less coffee and soft drinks like Coke. Caffeine is a stimulant and doesn’t help.
Drink less fluid (e.g. water, orange juice) before hitting the sack.
Don’t smoke. Other than the other obvious reasons for avoiding this habit, sleep can be hugely
Exercise regularly, preferably in the early afternoon. Obviously if you can’t do this, after school is
Try to have some relaxing “you” time at least once a week. A bath or reading a good book are
Try to get to bed by 11 pm each night, and try as much as possible to arrange your time
Follow this guide and hopefully mornings will be more about feeling refreshed and able, and less
about feeling tired and weary. Admit it; you’d love to feel great.