Impaired brain development
Sleep deprivation can be particularly harmful for teens. “The striatum/basal ganglia undergoes a change during adolescence,” says Dr. Lynelle M. Schneeberg, Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and the Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center's Sleep Center. “If students are deprived of sleep during this period of their life, they’re more likely to have decreased activity in this part of the brain, which is the part that affects risk-taking behavior.”
When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not as alert or coordinated. This might not sound like such a big deal but if you’re a student who commutes to and from school, it can be. The National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that in a survey of 1,039 college students, 16% admitted to drowsy driving and 2% percent said they got into a car accident due to lack of sleep. And if you’re a sleep deprived student-athlete, your performance and coordination will likely suffer and could cost your team a win.
Increased negative feelings, including suicide
Insufficient sleep can make some students feel hopeless and even suicidal. A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence examined suburban high school students in Fairfax County, Virginia who had very early school start times and found that each hour of sleep a teenager lost was associated with a 38% increase in hopeless feelings and a 42% increase in suicidal thoughts. Each hour of sleep lost was also associated with a 58% increase in actual suicide attempts.