By Emma Wu
There’s nothing wrong with catching a few more winks of sleep on the weekends right? Wrong. Teenagers are notorious for either not getting enough sleep during the week or sleeping too long on weekends or both. However, studies show that getting inconsistent amounts of sleep over a long period of time can cause a number of behavioral and physical problems, along with problems in cognitive function. One of the major problems that inconsistent sleeping patterns bring up is that it tends to cause a decrease in judgement ability. As such, this leads teenagers to engage in riskier activities, such as, substance and alcohol usage. The number of teenagers who are doing these activities continues to increase today.
A study in 2011, showed that weekend delays and weekend oversleeps tended to cause an increase in risky behaviors and substance use. Weekend delays are when one sleeps later on weekends than on normal weekdays. Weekend delays were found to disrupt the circadian rhythm, making it much harder to wake up the following Monday morning. The disruption in the circadian rhythm was also found to cause a decrease in judgment ability, which affects a teenager’s ability to avoid potentially dangerous situations. A decrease in judgement ability can also cause teenagers to make riskier decisions, which can directly lead to harm to themselves or others.
In a way, the problems with sleep that adolescents have may be the indirect cause of a lot of problems in adolescents today. The increase in substance usage across the country is a major problem, along with a lot of the other risky behaviors that teens engage in. As such, one path to reducing such problems, may be with helping teenagers set healthier and more consistent sleeping patterns, with a sufficient amount of sleep daily and fewer weekend delays and oversleeps.