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Parent Teacher Student Association

A Beautiful Sleep by Charles Grier, Teacher and Data Central Director, NMHS

Adolescents need sleep.  The younger the adolescent the more sleep is required for vigorous engagement with the waking world.  Adolescents younger than 17, need about 9 hours of sleep per night.  17 through 25 year old adolescents need about 8.5-9 hours of sleep per night. Too little sleep leads to permanent cognitive and social skill impairment.  Too much sleep (10 or more hours in a night) also impairs cognitive skills, social skills and growth.  It is also associated with shorter life spans.

 

Sleep should be uninterrupted aside from calls of nature.  The sleep cycle is 90 minutes.  The sleeper descends into deeper states of sleep for about 45 minutes and then returns to near normal consciousness. Immediately before coming to full waking consciousness the sleeper experiences REM sleep.  This is the phase of sleep when dreams occur.  Research indicates that REM sleep is the most crucial phase of sleep.  Individuals deprived of REM sleep experience progressive mood and skill deterioration eventually, in extreme cases, leading to death.  REM sleep sends the sleeper back into the full sleep cycle for another 90 minutes (see graph below).  Notice that sleep cycles are less deep as the night continues and the REM periods are longer.

The last two decades of research have shown that sleep is essential for human health.

Sleep restores the body.  The making of new cells to replace damaged or dead cells is at its maximum.  Chemicals used up during the day are restored.  The growth hormone is secreted (particularly important for adolescents).  Memories are made stronger.  Hidden relationships between memories and between ideas are discovered.

 

Dreams (REM sleep) are the most important aspect of sleep.  Dreams accomplish several things for the dreamer. The dreamer processes the day’s information (or several days) and restores chemicals vital for the next day.  The individual solves problems (sometimes by forgetting).  People flush out “garbage” they do not need.  People solve complex problems that require creative solutions.  People who do not get enough sleep, particularly REM sleep, perform dramatically worse than those individuals who do get enough sleep.The quality of assignments, tests, social relationships, and work, suffer.

 

Psychology students at NMHS have conducted informal sleep surveys over the last three years that reveal that NMHS students generally are two to three hours short of sleep per night and often engage in “binge” sleeping on the weekends, which is equally damaging.

 

A beautifully full sleep leads to a beautifully resonant mind, and a more vibrant life.