January 4, Reno Gazette Journal, Reno, NV: Hug High Student Killed in Crash… “Tria Cornejo and Nito Ramirez were best friends …. Arizona authorities are trying to determine whether Ramirez, 17, a Hug High football player, will be prosecuted for losing control of his classmate’s car. Cornejo, a 19-year-old Hug senior, died when the car left the highway at the Nevada-Arizona border near Bullhead City, Arizona.
“Cornejo was asleep while Ramirez was driving. Police say Ramirez became drowsy and fell asleep behind the wheel … He is believed to have lost control of the car and crashed….”
Snoozing and cruising don’t mix. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 200,000 crashes are related to driving while drowsy. A large percentage of highway crashes involve driver fatigue.
Sleepiness and sleep deprivation are major concerns, especially for teens. Sleepiness not only can mean dozing off in class and missing an important point for the next test, but it also can mean dozing off behind the wheel and causing loss of life.
Specific sleep problems may first appear during the teen years. Identifying teens with actual sleep disorders, however, can be a problem because teenagers are known to be, well, sleepy. It becomes difficult to separate the people who have a genuine sleep disorder from those who are sleep-deprived because of lifestyle choices.
It has been proven that the average teen needs eight to 10 hours of sleep – and yet, you have to get up earlier for school, have more responsibilities, and probably stay up late at night. And for the first time in your life, you may have problems going to sleep or rising early.
Narcolepsy, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and restless leg syndrome often begin during teen years. Add this to the emotional ups and downs that occur naturally at this time of your life – leaving you even more prone to daytime sleepiness and sleep deprivation.
Developing sleep smarts is not only important for your future lifestyle, it is important right now. Studies have shown that students who sleep more at night do in fact have higher grades and less daytime sleepiness.
The Sleep Robbers
Insomnia occurs when people have a difficult time falling and/or staying asleep. A sleep history may reveal the cause. illness, drugs, stress, depression, noise, pain, breathing disorder, anxiety, etc. But sometimes the cause is not known. Treatments will vary, depending on the cause. Insomnia produces symptoms of sleep deprivation.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) involves not being able to fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning, and then having difficulty waking up for school. It is a common complaint of teens. To overcome DSPS, sleep specialists advise going to bed late on Saturday night, but getting up on Sunday at the time you would go to school. From then on, a strict bedtime routine weekdays and weekends must be kept.
Sleep Deprivation is a collective term for loss of sleep. A person with sleep deprivation may experience daytime sleepiness and lessened productivity in school and work; falling asleep at the wheel or on the job; irritability and foul moods. Many things can deprive you of the sleep you need: alcohol use, nicotine, anxiety, depression, and simply ignoring your need for rest and relaxation. Too often, sleepiness is ignored in teens until other, more serious symptoms show up.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is also known as Periodic Limb Movement During Sleep (PLMS). Twelve million men, women, and children suffer from RLS. Fidgety, moving legs interrupt a good night,s sleep. Kids have been misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) as they have to move around a lot to get rid of the creepy, crawly feeling in their legs. People can feel groggy during the day. RLS may be due to low levels of a brain chemical known as dopamine; certain medications may help with the symptoms.
Narcolepsy can begin at puberty and last a lifetime. The primary symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness. Episodes of muscular weakness (cataplexy) are common when intense emotions occur (anger, surprise, amusement). There are often sleep attacks during the day, so activities such as driving should be avoided. Some people can learn to anticipate an attack and take naps to prevent it. Certain medications help some people.
Sleep Apnea. A person with sleep apnea stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. Symptoms include a lot of daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. Being overweight or having a palate that blocks the airway may cause this potentially serious disorder. In some cases, corrective surgery and weight loss may help.
How can you cope? You can begin by accepting the fact that it is normal for most teens to need eight to 10 hours of sleep every night. Once you know what you need, change your lifestyle to get the sleep that you need. This may mean some big compromises, but in the long run they will produce rewards.
What Can You Do?
Try these suggestions:
* Become active in the Drive Alert … arrive Alive programs in your area sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). For information, write to the foundation at 1367 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Dept. CH, Washington, DC 20036. If you’re sleepy, don’t drive. * Make your personal sleeping space inviting and restful. Consider keeping the TV and computer in another area and unplugging the phone. Add some more pillow and soft, cozy stuff. Get some fresh air into your room. Turn on some mellow music to relax. * Keep a sleep log or journal. Share it with your health care provider, if necessary. * Find ways to increase the time you sleep deeply, such as getting regular exercise (at least three hours before bedtime) and taking hot baths. Avoid heavy meals near bedtime. * Write away those troubles. Keep a journal to write down the day’s events – your thoughts and concerns. Many people find this helpful in getting problems off their minds. * If probably persist, you may need to see a doctor or a sleep specialist. * Finally, empower yourself to make the choice to get the sleep that you need. Give yourself permission to say, “Well, time to go and get some zzz’s.”