Wrappers of half-eaten chips, empty Starbucks drinks and papers scattered across the desk in the late hours of the morning is a sight familiar to high school students – the inevitable, the dreaded late-nighters. Between the processed foods and the increasingly minimized sleep hours, the health of high school students has been the focus of studies which link sleep duration to obesity in children. Referenced in a Harvard Public Health article, a U.S. study, Project Viva, revealed that the correlation even existed at the earliest years of life as infants who averaged less than twelve hours a day had twice the risk to become obese by the age of three. A similar British study also revealed in a longitudinal study involving eight thousand children who slept fewer than ten and a half hours had a forty-five percent higher risk of becoming obese by age seven as compared to those who received twelve hours of sleep. With the deprivation of sleep, students have higher levels of appetite-stimulating hormones, namely ghrelin and lower levels of the satiety-inducing hormone, leptin. Not only does sleep deprivation exacerbate appetite, but also decrease energy expenditure, curbing physical activity. While students are encouraged to bank in those hours whenever possible, a more realistic perspective is shortening time on social media sites, prioritizing studies and, in the end, placing personal health first. Yet, sleep is not the only way a student can avoid weight gain. Many students forget that even with exercise, nutrition is often more influential to health. An athlete can take the lengths to be physically fit, but the health benefits of exercise can be at little worth without good nutrition. The solutions are endless from the power given to people by the Internet with web health gurus to your school coach for advice. What students have yet to realize is the importance of health at this age and its lasting influence for a lifetime to come.
Sarah Wong ’14