Q&A- Sleep Disorder

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.question and answer with Dr. Susan S. Woods

Q: My 15 year old high school daughter sleeps about 4 hours every
night because of school stress. Can that result in making bad choices
(like helping a friend during a test?)

A: A 15 year old who develops a sleep disorder may experience many symptoms including impaired judgement or the ability to sort out solutions to moral dilemma even to the point of discounting how their sleep disturbance affects their daily functioning.   In the Whitehall II British study, 10,000 Civil servants were studied over a period of twenty years. The study found that people who got less than 5 hours a night lost their ability to see how the lack of sleep was affecting them.  The study also found that the sleep deprived in this group doubled their risk of death from a variety of causes including accidents, heart disease  and cancer. Insomnia is often the first symptom to present in depressions of various kinds as well.  There is also a link  to impaired ability to learn or to remember what has been learned. The physical downside to poor sleep also includes lackluster skin, dark circles under the eyes and weight gain.

A study by William Kilgore, Ph.D. at Walter Reed Hospital in 2007 issue of “Sleep”found that sleep deprivation impairs our ability to reason through the process of moral decision making. Sleep deprived individuals were more prone to chose an inappropriate course of action when sleep deprived than when they were in a well rested state. Teens are at great risk for sleep disorder because of the busy lives they lead and the temptations of staying up till all hour playing video games and texting.  Careful monitoring and encouraging good sleep habits would help ease the stress of school by improving cognitive functioning and health.

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.

700 McClellan St ♦ Schenectady, NY 12304 ♦ (518) 372-0166

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