Teens’ lack of sleep is ‘epidemic’...

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In 20 years a whole generation of adults will be ‘functioning sub-optimally,’ sleep expert warns. Every morning the bell rings at 8:10 am at Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute and herds of weary high school students stumble into class like zombies. “We’re always tired,” Grade 10 student Michelle Norlock says. “It’s hard, because you’re not focusing and you can’t really understand what the teacher is saying.”

“My first class, I just want to fall asleep and not really pay attention, because I’m exhausted from the night before,” echoes Grade 9 student Angelina Holmes.

Parents of any era know it’s often a struggle to coax a groggy teenager out of bed. But two Grade 10 students at SFDCI in Smiths Falls, Ontario, wondered if their peers are, in fact, chronically sleep deprived. Elizabeth Horsey and Quin Atkinson asked more than 300 students about their sleeping habits for a recent science fair project. Their questions included a survey known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale that’s commonly used to detect sleep disorders.

It’s recommended that 13 to 18 year olds get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society. The duo found that students slept 7.67 hours on school nights, on average. What surprised them was that more than a third of students would be classified by the Epworth test as having ‘excessive’ daytime sleepiness, which, in some cases, warrants medical attention.

Many teens resist allure of smartphone ‘catnip’ but some still struggle, “Everybody is so stressed with all the work and they’re not getting enough sleep,” Atkinson says. “They just have so much on their plate and they’re not getting enough time to restore their bodies.”

Indeed, national statistics show millions of Canadian adolescents don’t get enough shut-eye, which has experts warning of long-term health consequences – unless we start appreciating the importance of a good night’s sleep.

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