Teenage sleep deprivation is real. Sending kids to school at 7 a.m. is the equivalent of sending an adult to work at 4 in the morning. According to a study carried out, ninth- and tenth-grade students should get nine hours of sleep each night to maintain optimal alertness. However, after surveying 3,000 high school students, researchers found that, on average, students managed only about 7.5 hours of sleep on a school night. This sleep deprivation was even more pronounced in high school boys than in girls.
Part of the problem is that even if students try to achieve nine hours of sleep each night, their own bodies may be working against them.
Studies show that teenage circadian rhythms run around two hours behind those of the average adult, turning them into night owls who struggle to wake in time for school each morning.
For this reason, early school start times are associated with significant sleep deprivation in adolescents, which can lead to a decline in performance, memory lapses and mood swings, as well as behavioral problems.
Hormones, anxiety, and depression are on the rise. I admit that teenage hormones (and the strong emotions they create) can be stressful for the adults in their life. However, imagine carrying around that bundle of emotions with you 24/7.
It’s an exhausting prospect. And it’s not just the hormones: rapid growth spurts, periods, acne and unreliable vocal cords can all add to a feeling of being out of control, which can trigger a cycle of anxiety and depression in teens.
So what is causing the increased rates of depression in teens — and why are girls more strongly affected?
Researchers aren’t entirely sure. However, they note that cyberbullying has increased more dramatically among girls than boys. Also, girls tend to use texting applications more intensively, which has been linked to an increased likelihood of depressed moods. So, external pressures coupled with surging hormones can lead to a lot of distress for the average teen.
Teens’ lives are not their own. In traditional schooling, many aspects of a student’s life are decided for them – from what subjects they study to what they wear at school and what schedules they follow. This lack of control can lead to stress. Adults have the autonomy to do as they please, but if teenagers try, it is called rebellion.
You have one boss, your teenager has six. Imagine having six bosses, all with large amounts of power over your daily life and future. Each boss has different expectations, ways of working, levels of competency and degrees of emotional intelligence. And if you don’t satisfy each one, your career is on the line.
A teenager will typically have to deal with six different teachers who are effectively their “bosses” – not to mention parents or guardians. If an adult has a poor boss, they have the means and ability to move to another job. A typical teenager doesn’t have such options.
To complicate the issue further, researchers found last year that stress levels among teachers could contribute to student stress.
After measuring cortisol levels in elementary school students, researchers learned that children showed higher levels of this so-called stress hormone when they were being taught by teachers experiencing burnout.
The dilemma of standing out while fitting in. The struggle for identity is hard. Teenagers like to be different, but at the same time, they want to fit in. Because of this, they often face pressure from peers, parents, and society to behave a certain way to feel accepted and valued by those around them.
Examples of stressful events listed by the researchers included everything from a friend dying to physical fights to not being invited to a party — anything that could undermine their social security and identity. Girls tend to be more affected by these kinds of social setbacks than boys, as they put a greater emphasis on interpersonal connectedness and therefore are more sensitive to peer stress and negative self-evaluation.
The uncertain future of job security. For those of us who still remember a time before the Internet, being a teenager was a carefree time. Many of us weren’t as bogged down by worries about joblessness and a lack of financial security. It was expected that whatever we did, a fully-fledged career would be available for us when we grew up. I’m afraid that this is no longer the case. The global economic downturn, job automation, globalization, and an increasingly competitive job market are causing great anxiety among young people.
With the use of artificial intelligence imminent, teenagers find themselves caught in a transitional phase that is expected to uproot economies and labor markets around the world.