Sleep. It really warrants no introduction. It is part of our evolution, always present in our lives regardless of our best efforts to save time by eliminating it. Even insomniacs, as little shut-eye as they manage to get, do, in fact, actually sleep. It’s a vital part of our lives without which we’d suffer from both physical and psychological afflictions.
But current trends, or just the advent of society, have been messing with our sleep schedules for centuries. Pretty much ever since the invention of artificial lighting, people have been altering their sleeping habits for the worse. And some groups are being affected far worse than other by this trend.
According to a study conducted by the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention, lack of sleep leads to risky behavior in teens. These dangerous behaviors range from excessive drinking to doing drugs, and even to the ever-dangerous drinking and driving.
Compared to teenagers sleeping for the recommended eight hours a night, those sleeping for seven, six, or less are far more likely to engage in behaviors such as drunk driving, not wearing a seatbelt, not wearing a helmet while riding a bike or a motorcycle, texting and driving, and even riding as a passenger with a driver that has been drinking.
Initially, the researchers found it strange that teens that slept for 9 or more hours a night also engaged in the same risky behaviors. However, they promptly realized after some more investigations that this was caused by a totally different cause – depression, which makes people not really care about their actions or about their dangerous activities.
As for the under-sleeping teenagers, the researchers concluded that the reason as to why they go through with such potentially lethal actions is because a lack of sleep plays a major role in decision making and in having poor judgment. The less a person sleeps, the less they are capable of making a reasonable decision.
According to Maribel Ibrahim, co-founder of the Start School Later program, who had nothing to do with the study,
The real issue at this point is that our society does not respect sleep, and we have grown-ups that brag about how, ‘We can get on with five hours of sleep,’ ‘We can drink that Red Bull and soldier on,’ ‘Sleep is for wimps,’ ‘I’ll get enough sleep when I’m dead,’. These are the statements that are horrifying, because really sleep is an essential third pillar of health.
The study was a meta-analysis performed on 50,000 high schoolers interviewed in 2009, 2011, and 2013. A previous study by the CDC used the same sample to determine that lack of sleep also leads to underage drinking, smoking, drug use, risky sexual behaviors, depression, suicidal thoughts, and even lack of physical exercise.
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