Sleep Deprivation Spawns Zombie Teens

Sweet Dreams

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers crossed my mind last week when my High School Kid morphed into a Zombie.  Though Mr. UnHollywood and I are super-annoying, ask-all-the-wrong-questions at the worst-possible-times type of parents, our kids tend to tolerate us. The new short-tempered, spacey Zombie did not.

During a walk I shared this disturbing development with fellow BH Moms and one confided  that her son once fell asleep mid-bite during dinner and woke face-first in a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. Another mom complained that her daughter also morphed into a zombie since she started taking Period 1 classes at 7am.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, Zombie Teens have nothing to do with mysterious pods and everything to do with sleep deprivation. In fact, two-thirds of American teens are sleep deprived. Symptoms range from crankiness to nervousness to hopelessness. My son’s teenage friends admit to daily dozing in class. Some manage to catch up on zzzs on weekends while others will steal sleep on a school night by dropping into bed, skipping homework and sleeping through until the next morning. “Even then, it’s hard to get up,” he said. “I’m usually tardy on those days.”

Teen sleep deprivation is linked to lower levels of Human Growth Hormone, which is crucial to a teen’s physical growth, brain development and healthy immune system. Seeing my kid as a likely casting candidate for an episode of The Walking Dead stopped me mid-pat on my back for raising an over-scheduled student. Sacrificing cognitive, mental and physical health is so not worth it.

Our pediatrician recommends Teens sleep for 8 ½ to 9 1/4 hours nightly. Curing shingles might be easier. Here’s what could help our droopy-eyed teens:

Later Start Times. Two Minneapolis school districts, Edina and the Minneapolis Public Schools changed class start times to an hour later (8:40am) and studied the results of over 7000 secondary students. Studies showed a reduction in dropout rates, less depression and higher grades. School districts around the US are paying close attention to the research-based data and, in some cases, are adjusting their own school schedules.

Weekly Block Schedules.  U.S. News and World Report rated the best high schools in the nation based on College Readiness and Academic Performance. The two top-rated High Schools in California, Oxford Academy in Cypress and Pacific Collegiate School in Santa Cruz, follow weekly Block Schedules that call for later start times and, theoretically, fewer homework assignments per night.

Study Hall Periods. Sure, some kids will blow the time but those that don’t relish the side-affects of Zombieism will get a jump-start on homework.

Strict Sleep Schedules.  Knowing what causes our son to want to bite off our heads is comforting. My High School Kid agrees that a sleep schedule is a good idea. He aims for lights out between 10:30-11pm. So far, so good.

At least for now, no one is trying to eat anyone else’s face off.






Author Description

Cynthia Baseman

Cynthia Baseman is the author of 'Love, Mom: A Mother's Journey from Loss to Hope.' She writes about motherhood, the environment and education.

There are 8 comments. Add yours

  1. 22nd November 2012 | Mom says: Reply
    Don't know the answers. Maybe an organized schedule during the week could help and having a relaxed uncomplicated weekend?
  2. 17th November 2012 | Carpool Goddess says: Reply
    The study hall is a good idea, if kids use it. Both my kids used that time to catch up on work, otherwise they would have been going to bed waaay past midnight, only to start the rat race again a few hours later.
  3. 16th November 2012 | Hayley says: Reply
    Do you think our kids may be getting less sleep because of the pressures placed upon them by our school system? (ie. what needs to be done to get into decent universities). What about the 24 hour a day distraction caused by Technology and Social Media? Congratulations on getting your zombie on the 10:30pm-11pm lights out schedule. I have to be very careful about calling my college age kids before lunch time - it seems their lights out time is seldomely before 1 or 2am in the morning.
  4. 15th November 2012 | Matt Steiner says: Reply
    This is an ongoing battle between my little brother (18, senior in high school) and mother. He winds up staying up way too late, coming home after school, crashing/sleeping, and staying up way too late again. I will be forwarding this little post! It's great!
  5. 15th November 2012 | Christina Simon says: Reply
    First, your dog is SO cute! Love the spotted ear. My daughter is 12 and when she doesn't get enough sleep, watch out!
    • 15th November 2012 | Cynthia Baseman says: Reply
      Here I was getting all deep and meaningful about the cause of my kid's surliness when I should've been paying more attention to the clock. Molly says thanks for the compliment:)
  6. 15th November 2012 | sandy says: Reply
    "Though Mr. UnHollywood and I are super-annoying, ask-all-the-wrong-questions at the worst-possible-times type of parents, our kids tend to tolerate us. " Really? I thought I was the only parent doing this.....LOL Loved the blog! keep 'em comin!
  7. 15th November 2012 | lauradennis20869230 says: Reply
    I totally get the sleep-deprivation thing, and yes, teenagers need sleep! There's one additional issue, which is afterschool extracurriculars, which haven't changed much. Kids have sports and cheerleading, etc. When I was teaching dance, classes for 16 & 17 yr olds ended at 9:45 pm! How are kids supposed to drive home, eat something, take a shower, perhaps relax, all after dance class? It was the only time teenagers were free, and when the studio was available. I don't miss those days of starting my homework at 10:30 pm, getting 3-5 hours of sleep, and getting back up at 5:30 to find in a little more studying before school started (7:25 am)! Laura

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