Tag: UIO: On Sleep

I Am a Sufferer of the Tired Teen Epidemic

This week I’m please to have Shannon Amos, The Untamed Optimist, share her blog on Students Overworking. It’s such a fitting subject for todays’s teens with exams galore and high participation in sports and all the rest and goes hand in hand with sleep deprivation, subject of one of our latest podcast.  Check out what Shannon has to say to students and parents alike about how to manage the overload.  And get more tips from UIO: On Sleep.

High school is the perfect time to get ahead in education before college and get an early start for your career; but it’s also proving to be a great time for students to overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion.

Students nationwide are being pressured by family, the school system, and themselves to do the best in school that they possibly can, yet many of them take this too far and overwork themselves, causing disruptions in sleep schedules leading to daytime sleepiness. This “tired teen epidemic” as I like to call it, is a way of acknowledging this unhealthy relationship with the idea of perfection and its association with high achievements in both the educational system and society. I myself have fallen victim to this a lot as of lately and completely understand the unhealthy situation these students have put themselves into to get ahead in school.

Colleges are seeming to get pickier and pickier with accepting their applicants and the pressure put on students to be the “best” in their grade or school is increasing as time goes on. Many students involve themselves in after school clubs, sports, and involve themselves in groups that not only engage them in their community more; but absorb most of their free time, making it difficult to relax and rest their bodies and minds while growing.

Lately, I have found myself coming straight home from school and eating before planting myself in the recliner or my bed and napping for what should only take 20 minutes but ends up being closer to an hour.

As an extrovert, I find socialising with people to be energising unlike many of my introverted friends that find school exhausting simply for all the social interactions they must make throughout the day. I find these interactions to be energising and often find myself feeling sluggish on days where I socialise less—which is strange because after a long day of conversing with friends I still find myself falling asleep as soon as I sit down!

Being expected to maintain good grades (whatever the standard may be) vs. actually following through with it are two separate battles that both take their tolls on me and a surprising amount of my peers, so I have no doubt that kids nationwide are struggling just as much.

The truth is, we live in a world where kids can relate to each other’s mental breakdowns more than they relate to their political views. Ask any kid their opinion on the amount of homework they are given and the expectations teachers and parents alike set for them and why they feel a certain way about the topic. Nearly every student my age has voiced a negative opinion on the expectations set for them and the affect it has had on their mental health, me included.

“The truth is, we live in a world where kids can relate to each other’s mental breakdowns more than they relate to their political views.”

The thing is, schoolwork is becoming more and more of a chore for kids like me, and it really starts to take its toll early on in the school year. Even just a few months in, I personally find the workload to be overwhelming and the stress caused by it amounts to much more mental fatigue.

Worrying about getting good grades, keeping them up, staying involved in clubs and sports, maintaining an active status in your community, and pulling all-nighters to finish that English paper that’s due tomorrow are all reasons why students today are losing sleep. But losing sleep is just half of the problem. The act of losing sleep leads to less energy to put toward learning which often leads to less excitement about involvement in the first place.

Sadly, this tiredness tends to come out as just that—falling asleep in class, sleeping in late, and my guilty pleasure: napping immediately after getting home. This is often seen as laziness by adults that—while dealing with their own stressful responsibilities—don’t have to deal with this school related stress.

“Acknowledge that when you are trying so hard to do your best that you push yourself beyond your limits, you are no longer doing your best.”

One thing I have done lately is acknowledged that while I am perfectly capable of getting straight As and maintaining them, it is not necessary for me to get them to be considered a “good” student. Many high school students feel this immense pressure to be “perfect” academically and feel like failures when unable to keep up this excessive expectation.

To any students who are finding themselves beyond stressed out with school, work, and other responsibilities, know that it is completely valid for you to take a break. It is unreasonable to expect “perfect” grades or an extensive list of community involvements and it is 100% okay for you to take a step back to relax, even if it means putting off some of that extra work to do so.

Many students fail to acknowledge their past achievements, constantly feeling as though they have not done enough to deserve a break, leading to being overworked and burnt out. Acknowledge that when you are trying so hard to do your best that you push yourself beyond your limits, you are no longer doing your best.

To any parents of teenagers or students in general, give your kid a break. Students tend to overwork themselves trying to be the “best” they can be and fail to see how it is actually doing them more harm than good. Don’t create an avoidable barrier between you and your child because you don’t acknowledge their past achievements and make it clear to them that their best should be enough—even if it’s not “perfect”.

Sleep Encounters

Most of us encounter sleep problems from time to time while others have constant problems sleeping. In UIO’s latest podcast On Sleep, guest Dr Nerina Ramlakhan gives three of the most common problems that people encounter with sleep. Also, she offers lots of tips on how to manage the problems.

First, there is sleep initiation, having a problem getting to sleep. This one, I am all too familiar with, particularly when I am wound up about something.  When I was a teen girl, however, it was more or less anticipation of something–whether dreadful or exciting –that kept me up at night. So often I would roll up at school, feeling a bit sleepy, a bit unwell.  In hindsight, I can now explain some of the niggles that I encountered over the years.

Make no mistake about it, I am not saying that sleep replaces medicine but as Dr Ramlakhan points out, we feel so much better when we have had good sleep, both mentally and physically. Not to mention the impact that sleep has on our confidence. It‘s a booster.

Next, there is sleep maintenance, waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake.  Argh!  I have experienced this one, too, probably equally as much as not being able to get off to sleep.

When I was writing novels, in particular, I would often collapse into a deep sleep at the beginning of the night, my brain so loaded with information, and surprise, surprise, after unloading in dreams and so on for a few hours, I would wake up abruptly.

One night I remember, bolting up to a sitting position and staring into space and repeating to myself, why do ghosts sit in chairs in the middle of the night and stare at us, and then there was the time when I was convinced that a conclave of dead writers, Shakespeare included, were trying to tear my door down.  Okay, so most people don’t have such disruption at night, but you get my point.

No wonder Dr. Ramlakhan stresses the importance of winding down such activity long before going to bed and reading something (writing in my case) nice and easy, like a feel good childhood book. The point is not to take all of our troubles, excitement, etc… to bed.

Finally, there is sleeping too much, otherwise known as hypersomnia. Occasionally, I sleep too much when travelling through time zones but according to Dr Ramlakhan, jet lag is not necessarily associated with hypersomnia. The latter is when someone needs to sleep a lot all the time.

All too often, I encounter parents who worry about how much their teenagers sleep. Not to worry, it is true that teenagers need more sleep than adults because of the growth and development they are encountering. It’s sort of an aid to getting it all integrated. But they can overdo it, putting a damper on health altogether, since sleeping too much is not good sleep either.

So whatever sleep issues you find yourself in, the key is to develop good sleep habits, ranging from what you eat, when you eat, how often you nap, when and for how long, and what you take to bed with you so to speak, including your device(s) or not,  and how you prepare your environment for sleep. Nothing wrong with creating a cosy, comfy room that smells good, too.

No wonder I’ve been off to a good slumber here lately. I have left the dead poets and writers out of my bedroom and the ghosts, too. For more tips on how to get your slumber, listen to UIO: On Sleep on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Sleep Matters

How exciting it is to be a part of the buzz around the importance of getting enough sleep. Yesterday we released our first ever podcast on the topic of sleep, UIO: On Sleep with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.

While I am proud of all of our podcasts, I am especially excited about this one as it has the potential to help so many people, teenage girls and the rest of the family, too. It is brimming with hot tips and great advice on how to get good sleep, meaning sleep that refreshes and heals the body.

That’s right, though sleep might not be a cure-all, for all of our troubles, it is an important, natural resource, if you will, for prevention and intervention of physical and emotional health problems.

A few months ago, I tested this view for myself, though unintentionally. The night before I was due to appear as a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show, I did not get a wink of sleep.  Not a wink. An old pro, if you will, at media relations, I couldn’t understand what was going on and tried everything I knew to get a few winks in.  I read relaxing books, moved myself from the bed and then to the guest bed, meditated and prayed and all the rest. Still no sleep.

The next morning, I got out of bed as though I had slept. After happily showering and dressing, I made my way to the BBC’s studios and worked really hard to insert myself into the conversation about the rise in teenage girls and young woman having cosmetic procedures and in some instances surgery.  

After all, UIO had just released its Wait Awhile research, which agreed with the findings of so many other surveys. Thus, I wanted to get the word out. Not to mention the pressure I felt from having a publicist just outside of the studio doors.  Gulp! I succeeded.

Anyhow, after the show I met Paul for lunch to celebrate my achievements and shortly before lunch ended, I started to fade a bit, but I fobbed it off, thinking I will just get home and get in the bed. This can’t be that much different to jet lag.

Wrong answer.  By the time I made it home, I felt like I had been hit by a train, beyond feeling nauseated, and barely made it into the house and into to the toilet.  There I found myself in a pool of sweat, feeling deathly ill, though this feeling washed over in about ten minutes.

So glad I was able to get up from the floor and make my way into our bedroom, I thought I would just drop off to sleep.  Wrong answer and when I did get up, I had another problem—a bladder infection.  As I was in no shape to take myself to the doctor and Paul was not home, I made an appointment for the next day and commenced to hydrate myself, even if it meant pain.  Only then dd I realised that I needed to plan to ensure a good night’s sleep, as my body felt wired, like it was never going to sleep again.  Foolishly at lunch, I had a glass of wine—just one!

After deep thought, I decided to go for a run and afterwards come back and have a soothing bath and then read a favourite book. I have several stacked by my bed for times such as the one I was experiencing.

Anyhow, it worked. I relaxed and at last fell asleep and slept the night away.  When I awoke at 7 am, I felt like a new person.  And the bladder infection was history, too. Still I hightailed it to the doctor later that afternoon, just to be sure. Voila! I was well again and all it took was good sleep, having been deprived of a full night of it.

Every situation won’t be as extreme as mine thankfully, but the point is sleeping is integral to well-being. You don’t need to lose a full night’s sleep to feel sleep deprivation.

To this end, Dr Ramlakhan stresses that sleep preparation starts well before bedtime. Surprisingly, what you eat for breakfast could have an impact on whether you get a good night’s sleep or not, as well as what you eat throughout the day. Napping comes into the picture as well and of course, managing use of social devices.

If only I could wind back the hands of time to January to the day before I was due to be a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show—I would have been prepared.  Never mind, I am now and thanks to UIO: On Sleep, you can be prepared too.  Listen on Apple podcasts or where ever you listen to podcasts.