The Alarming Consequences of Chronic Sleep Deprivation

We were at a book group dinner with our spouses last Saturday night talking about the book Essentialsim: the Disciplined Pursuit for Less. I have had a few posts about Essentialism, because it has had a great impact on me. One point that Greg McKeown makes in his book is that sleep is essential. It’s one of the few vital things we can do for ourselves each day– “protecting the asset”. We know that! We try! But we have so much working against us, including how late we eat, the light coming in our rooms, and staying on our phones too close to bedtime, among other things.

One husband at the dinner, who is a family practice doctor, spoke up and with great emphasis, said, “Chronic sleep deprivation accounts for 400% more anxiety, 400% more depression, and 400% more suicides in adolescents. I tell the moms that come in to have their children turn their phones over to them, at 10:00 pm. Their teenager has a fit, right in my office, and says, ” You can’t do that! That’s when I connect with my friends! From 10:00 (pm) to 1:00(am)!”

I have thought about his statement through the week, and realized, “One hundred percent means you are going to get something, absolutely, guaranteed . Four hundred percent means long term, chronic problems that can ruin your life.”

The average sleep teenagers get is 7-9 hours. “Studies show that teenagers need exactly 9 1/4 hours of sleep.” Scraping by on 5 or 6 hours is no bueno because sleep deprivation will impact many aspects of our teenager’s functioning:

  • Mood=Irritable
  • Behavior=Risk taking behaviors
  • Cognitive Ability=terrible attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity,
  • Academics=Poor grades
  • Drowsy Driving=2:00-4:00 am, also 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon.

But I don’t have to tell you that. Living with a cranky teenager is the American way. We put up with it, sigh over it, and wring our hands. But the above statistic was very alarming to me, showing how common chronic sleep deprivation is for this family practice doctor to see. Over and over he tries to convince mothers and children how important sleep is. Are we going to listen? Are we going to educate our teenagers so they see how critical sleep is for them? What boundaries would help our children not have access to technology after a certain time of night? One young mother, whose oldest child is 9, told me that she and her husband have the wifi turn off automatically at 9:30 pm at their house. Sounds like an essential choice to me!

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