lack of sleep proven to impact teen brain development

this excellent article in the new york magazine is a must-read for youth workers and parents. an excerpt:

Using newly developed technological and statistical tools, sleep scientists have recently been able to isolate and measure the impact of this single lost hour. Because children’s brains are a work-in-progress until the age of 21, and because much of that work is done while a child is asleep, this lost hour appears to have an exponential impact on children that it simply doesn’t have on adults.

The surprise is how much sleep affects academic performance and emotional stability, as well as phenomena that we assumed to be entirely unrelated, such as the international obesity epidemic and the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A few scientists theorize that sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child’s brain structure: damage that one can’t sleep off like a hangover. It’s even possible that many of the hallmark characteristics of being a tweener and teen—moodiness, depression, and even binge eating—are actually symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.

(ht to jeff moulton)

11 thoughts on “lack of sleep proven to impact teen brain development”

  1. I can see the Youthworker Journal headline now “Lock Ins Cause Brain Damage, and not Just for Youth Workers!”

    Amazing article – thanks for the head’s up!

  2. amen to that! I’ve always been a big proponent of sleep for kids. So many behavior issues are connected to lack of sleep. I’ll be quoting this article often!

  3. Currently I work for Camfel productions doing school assemblies in schools around the country and it’s amazing to me how many schools start at 7am (or earlier)… maybe we need to rethink our education system and move back the start of school!!

  4. WOW! Thanks Marko for this great article. I have been a big supported for teens and sleep and have noticed a big decrease in sleep with my youth. I will be posting this article on our website for parents to read.

  5. Wow — down here the earliest schools start is usually around 8.30am. BUT .. this article has stacks of relevant info — chur chur tonto!

  6. The one thing I wanted from these studies, and didn’t really get, was an indication of the marginal effect of a single night of lack of sleep. I want to know for when I do an overnight if my single event by itself will cause permanent damage, or do you need a week, or do you need this to be truly a chronic problem.

    Of course, the answer is probably “nobody knows … yet”. But I would sleep a bit better (pun intended) having some assurance that my actions in my capacity as a minister weren’t having a preventable and measurable negative impact.

  7. Thank you so much for the link to my and Po’s piece!

    Jeff- You’re right that the science doesn’t completely know the answer to your question at this point, but what I would recommend is considering the more immediate effects when you are scheduling an event — meaning, having kids stay up late may mess up their sleep schedules and therefore cognitive functioning during the following day, even week, depending. (If you just think about how hard it is to get back on schedule when we change to Daylight /Standard time, you’ll get an idea of what happens to a kid really every weekend, since they all stay up late then.) If it’s the summer, that might be less of a concern. However, if you are scheduling a retreat for high schoolers a week before the SAT, that might be a problem.

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