Lack Sleep Effects on Teenagers


Sleep is one of the most important functions which help human body to have some rest and recover essential functions. Sleep deprivation means lack of sleep which influences the main psychological and physiological processes. Kushida (2005) claims: “The deprivation of sleep is the partial or near-complete removal of sleep in an organism” (p. 1). The topic of adolescent emotional problems has received renewed attention in recent years as professionals and the lay public search for answers to why today’s teenagers engage in highly publicized acts of violence (Warner and Moore 2004). The widespread publicity and shocking nature of these events give the impression that prior to the mid1990s little thought was given to adolescent emotional problems or how to solve them. Writers through the ages have focused on the nature of adolescence and the apparent difficulties experienced by young people. Thesis It was found that lack of sleep in teens have a great impact on their psychological health and educational achievements, self-identity and life goals.

Main Text

Lack of sleep leads to emotional problems and distress which has a great impact on psychological health of a student. Investigators have long wrestled with the question of whether anxiety and fear is a result of lack of sleep and sleep deprivation, or whether these emotions are manifestations of a larger, more diffuse construct of negative affect. In contrast to the immediate alarm reaction associated with fear, anxiety is a mood state or emotion characterized by negative affect and the somatic symptoms of tension, along with apprehension that some future negative event, situation, or misfortune will occur (Warner and Moore 2004).

Thus, in contrast to the immediacy of the fear response, anxiety is a state of dread, unease, worry, or apprehension about an upcoming or anticipated situation. Although anxiety may not be a pleasant experience, the purpose of anxiety is to assist with planning and managing future events. The physiological symptoms accompanying lack of sleep may involve fidgeting, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. In proper or moderate amounts, anxiety serves the function of motivating an individual and enhancing performance in various situations. Children and adolescents may have anxiety focused on academic performance, social relationships, athletic competence, and family issues (Mcloone et al 2006).

Lack of sleep influences educational achievements because of the disruption of cognitive performance. Following Kushida (2005): “sleep disruption is bound to have a significant impact on daytime cognitive performance. Indeed, sleep deprivation induced either by pure sleep loss or through idiopathic sleep disorders is now known to impair behavioral adjustment and cognitive performance during waking” (p. 199). With the attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, a frequent differential diagnostic question posed to clinicians is whether behavioral disturbance is due to deficits in attention or lack of sleep (Mcloone et al 2006). It is assumed by nonclinicians that these conditions are mutually exclusive, whereas in fact, they may co-occur with considerable frequency (Madriz, 1997). Investigators are focusing increasing attention on the observation that individuals who manifest psychopathological conditions often possess preexisting tendencies or traits for those particular conditions, especially when exposed to certain experiences and environmental stimuli (Kushida 2005).

Lack of sleep can lead to apathy and passivity, sleepiness and indifference during the day. Shyness is depicted as feelings of discomfort in social situations but not nonsocial situations, whereas behavioral inhibition reflects a propensity to react with inhibition to both social and nonsocial novel situations. The large majority of teens complaints have normal sleep systems that are disrupted by a variety of factors (Kushida 2005). Although such a diagnosis implies that there are children who sleep poorly because of inadequate sleep systems, they have yet to be identified except in children with clear neurological deficits. Also, lack of sleep can lead to adjustment disorder with depressed mood as a short-term reaction that can be used to classify dysphoric mood, tearfulness, or hopelessness that arises within three months of a stressor. “Almost all teen-agers, as they reach puberty, become walking zombies because they are getting far too little sleep,” comments Cornell University psychologist James B. Maas, PhD” (Carpenter, 2001). Similarly, an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood is a comparable short-term reaction characterized by a combination of depression and anxiety symptoms (Kushida 2005).

A concomitant reliance on individual psychotherapy suggests that the source and resolution of problems often reside in the child. For some teachers and principals, the fault also lies with students who are lazy and unmotivated to learn and who have little respect for teachers, their school, or education in general. Some teachers also blame parents for not supporting their child’s education or not raising their children effectively. “Insufficient sleep has also been shown to cause difficulties in school, including disciplinary problems, sleepiness in class and poor concentration” ” (Carpenter, 2001). Some teachers blame principals or other administrators for lack of support and effective guidance, poor leadership, or political cowardice in times of controversy.

Schools cannot be improved in the face of ineffectual leadership. At the same time, some parents blame teachers and the schools in poor discipline and educational achievements of their children. Schools do not really want parental input, do not do enough to assist parents, and do not try hard enough to motivate and teach all students, especially those who are in some way “different” from the mainstream. In their defense, students complain that schools are not a stimulating or nurturing environment. Students suffered from lack of sleep are often bored in school and feel frequently “put down” by teachers who fail to offer support or listen to what students have to say (Gozal 1998). Most of the financial support for schools comes through local taxes and bond issues, resulting in marked disparities in pupil expenditures and basic services across school districts. Critics admit that depressive disorder caused by lack of sleep not otherwise specified can be used to diagnose depressive symptoms that do not squarely fit the criteria for adjustment disorder (Compas et al 1995).

Sleep deprivation among teens is a crucial problem for modern society because it prevents students to achieve high standards and master knowledge nad kills. For some students, it is difficult to meet high standards at once, so grade recovery become the best chance for them to master knowledge and skills required by the school (Kushida 2005). “Just as important as the question of why sleep patterns change during adolescence is the issue of how sleep deprivation influences adolescents’ emotion regulation and behavior. Many researchers have noted that sleep-deprived teen-agers appear to be especially vulnerable to psychopathologies such as depression and ADHD, and to have difficulty controlling their emotions and impulses” (Carpenter, 2001). In this situation, the result of this prioritization process is an identification of the standards that are more important than others. These more important standards become the power standards. Normal and sufficient sleep should be part of teens life controlled by parents (Compas et al 1995).

Obviously, a significant factor in student motivation is students’ emotional response to school and learning. Numerous studies and our own personal experience suggest that the outcome of this type of assessment is usually, at best, heightened anxiety and, at worst, feelings that range from shame and guilt to low levels of selfworth and self-esteem. Many individuals can attest to the test anxiety that surrounded college lessons and the impact of their performance on their personal identity. To overcome this problem parents and school administration should educate students about health risks and possible consequences of sleep deprivation (Compas 1995). A common view is that the job of the school leader requires the ability of leader­ship and that leadership is in effect a sub-set of management; although leader­ship is a special attribute which can be distinguished from other elements of management. Schooling, in general, must be directed, through communication and orientation, to carry out assignments with the utmost co-operation. Working relationships are involved at all levels and these must be governed to see they are effectively executed. Proper motivation is needed to encourage staff to work and students to learn (Gozal 1998).


In sum, researchers considered and analyzed adolescent emotional problems and came to conclusion that sleep deprivation have a great impact on their health and education. It has been easy to point the finger of blame for different problems. Sometimes, society blames the victim. A medical model conceptualizes adjustment problems in terms of disease states. Numerous studies and our own personal experience with standardized testing suggest that the outcome of this type of assessment is usually, at best, heightened anxiety and, at worst, feelings that range from shame and guilt to low levels of self-worth and self-esteem. Many individuals can attest to the test anxiety that surrounded college entrance standardized tests and the impact of their test performance on their personal identity.


Carpenter, Ch. (2001). Sleep deprivation may be undermining teen health. Web.

Compas, B. E., Hinden, B. R. Gerhardt, C. A. (1995). Adolescent Development: Pathways and Processes of Risk and Resilience. Annual Review of Psychology, 46; 99. ProQuest Database.

Gozal D. (1998). Sleep-disordered breathing and school performance in children. Pediatrics, 102, 616–620. ProQuest Database

Kushida, C. A. (2005). Sleep Deprivation. Marcel Dekker.

Madriz, M. (1997). Latina Teenagers: Victimization, Identity, and Fear of Crime. Social Justice, 24, p. 83. ProQuest Database

Mcloone, J., Hudson, J. L., Rapee, R. M. (2006). Treating Anxiety Disorders in a School Setting. Education & Treatment of Children, 29 (1), p. 92. ProQuest Database

Warner, S., Moore, S. (2004) Excuses, Excuses: Self-Handicapping in an Australian Adolescent Sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33 (1), p. 43. ProQuest Database