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Sleep: A Hard Goldilocks Challenge

New York, NY

Everyday, millions of alarms across the world go off, each with a distinct sound that wakes someone up from their sleep. In most circumstances, this signals the start of an exhausting day.

Sleep is one of the most critical components of the average human lifespan. As a critical period of rest for the body, it has two different phases, each distinguished by the movement of the eyes. The first phase is rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, in which there is rapid movement of the eyes and active dreams. The second phase, however, is called non-REM sleep, which is characterized by slowed breathing, brain waves, heartbeat, and low muscle activity.

A woman trying to turn off her alarm.
Many people often struggle with balancing their sleep and work.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, humans should spend around one-quarter to one-third of their lifespan sleeping. Doctors recommend that teens 13 to 18 years old sleep anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, meaning for every 24 hours, they should spend at least ⅓ of the day sleeping. However, Stanford researchers have said that 70% of high school students do not sleep the required amount. Doctors say that these students are “sleep deprived.”

Sleep deprivation, also known as sleep deficiency, can be caused by a lack of sleep, sleeping at the wrong time of day, having a sleep disorder, or not having good quality sleep. This often proposes a variety of negative effects, such as symptoms of depression, migraines, seizures, high blood pressure, and weakened immune systems. Individuals with sleep deprivation may also experience the impacts of increased levels of ghrelin, a hormone known for stimulating appetite, leading to overeating. Though mild cases of sleep deprivation can be ameliorated by creating and following a healthy sleeping schedule, doctors recommend that individuals with disorders such as narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, and insomnia should take prescribed medicine.

Though most people who find themselves experiencing difficulties with their sleep schedule are sleep-deprived, some may find that they are oversleeping, meaning they sleep longer than needed or expected. Oversleeping is a condition that may worsen an individual’s mood and their ability to perform daily tasks. Furthermore, it can cause headaches, problems with concentrating, and excessive sleepiness later throughout the day. 

The problems demonstrated above emphasize the significance of sleep. Sleep serves as a period of relaxation and supports the brain’s ability to grow and adapt. In general, people around the world face difficulties when trying to find their perfect "goldilocks" sleep schedule. However, countless studies and professionals encourage people to attempt different sleep schedules to ensure a healthy lifestyle. 

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