Health and Wellness

Quiet, I’m sleeping!

Lack of sleep for students

Written by: Saarang B. and Atli A.

Los Altos students lose many hours of sleep over many months. Students are sleeping less than the recommended minimum of eight to ten hours of sleep per day. A minority of students (15%) get the minimum eight hours of sleep per day.

Many of the students we surveyed said their phones kept them awake for hours. The reason screens are so effective at keeping us awake is because they are addictive.

When you use your phone, watch tv, or play a video game, pleasure signals, also known as dopamine, get sent to your brain. Dopamine is a chemical which triggers the release of hormones, which are sent to your brain via your nerves. This rush of dopamine makes you feel happy.

When you increase your use of screens, the dopamine keep getting received by your brain, and you want to use screens again and again to receive dopamine. Compared to other pleasurable activities, screens release larger amounts of dopamine then, say, winning a card game, or acing a math test.

Because of this dopamine addiction, using screens is like taking a drug, in sizable doses. You keep doing it repeatedly, in larger and larger amounts, until it becomes borderline unhealthily.

The most common color on websites, white, is filled with blue light which naturally keeps us awake. This is owing to the fact that the middle of the day has a blue sky, so our brains subconsciously think it’s daytime.

Luckily, there are ways to counteract this, such as putting your computer on red shift mode, which uses more red and less blue. This helps because the color red hasn’t been shown to have the same awful effect that blue does.

One student we surveyed lost 630 hours of sleep per school year. Just imagine losing 53 days, or nearly two months, of sleep per year.

Some blame should be carried by schools because it has been proven teenagers naturally fall asleep at later times. Yet schools keep disrupting this sleep further because they give more homework and assignments.

A new study concluded, “Looking at screens that gave off intense blue light cut someone’s sleep by about 16 minutes.” They also stated, “Those exposed to blue light also woke up more often at night than if they had been exposed to red light.” This shows that the blue light that comes off of our screens harms our sleep.

An anonymous student said, “[It’s] screens that keep me awake, and how easily accessible they are.” The student also said after a couple days of little sleep you, “don’t really want to sleep anymore” This shows how addicting screens are.

Although, some may think they are fine with the dearth of sleep they are getting, they are getting tired faster and more often due to their lack of sleep. Schools can account for this ever shortening sleep while the real blame lies with technological devices.

Less sleep has shown to impact students and their behavior at school. Looking to get your grades up? Get more sleep.

That 2 You Got On Your Science Test Might Be the Result of The Candy Bar You Ate. Nutrition’s Impact on Teens Academic Performance

By: Ava K.

Nutrition is important for adults and children alike, however, a healthy diet is especially important for teens and good school performance. Studies have shown that students who eat an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, protein, and fiber perform better on exams than those eating foods high in salt, refined sugars, and saturated fat. Of course gender, school, and previous education can cause results to differ, but the main idea is there. Eating the right food fuels teens with long lasting energy for sports, hours of homework, and a happy, healthy lifestyle.

To date, the majority of research on diet and school performance has been focused on the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. Starting off the day with a nutritious breakfast is crucial to teens’ academic performance in the morning and as the day progresses.

Every kid hears from their parents, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, and it really is! Teens should look to include a balance of fresh fruit, whole grains, eggs or other lean protein, and low-fat dairy products in their breakfast.

Too often, students skip breakfast and then arrive at school groggy and unprepared to learn. Having no food in your system makes it difficult to focus and remember new information you are taught.

During adolescence, a teen’s brain is undergoing serious and important changes. At this time of growth and development in a teen’s brain, the brain’s dendrites-which send signals to neurons- extend and grow more branch like. At the same time, the synapses most frequently used to process information grow stronger.

The brain’s remodeling phase in a teen’s life is known as “pruning.” Without proper nutrition, its ability to learn new tasks or skill decreases, which is certainly not good for students. What teens eat definitely impacts the performance of their brain.

While it is important to include essential food groups in their diets like fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates, teens often forget the importance of consuming vitamins and minerals as well in their daily meals. This doesn’t mean teens should eat processed gummy bears to supplement their bodies with vitamins and minerals though. They can find them in so many whole foods!

Specific vitamins and minerals that our body obtains from nutrient-rich foods play a critical role in brain growth, development, and especially learning for teens. For vitamins, key ones for teens to include in their diets are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamins B12 and B6, and Vitamin D.

Vitamin A is found in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale and promotes healthy skin. Vitamin C is found most commonly in oranges but is also found in strawberries, papaya, mango, and bell peppers! You need Vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissue when wounded, as well as helping  your body make collagen, which is a protein used to make skin, tendons, and blood vessels.

Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin for teens to eat because of its ability to make DNA in the body and keep blood cells healthy. It is in all meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Vitamin B6 is found in starchy vegetables and beef. Vitamin D is in some dairy products and fatty fish like salmon and helps to strengthen bones.

Minerals are not commonly included in a teen’s diet however, they are equally as important as vitamins. Minerals teens need are Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Zinc, Phosphorus, and Magnesium.

Other than in dairy products, Calcium can also be found in almonds and broccoli. Calcium is probably the most important mineral for teens because of its ability to form and keep bones strong and also release hormones in the body. Iron, also very important, is in dark, leafy vegetables like spinach, beans, and tofu. Iron produces red blood cells and hemoglobin, which is the substance that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

Potassium, commonly found in bananas and dates, helps to maintain a balance of fluids in your body. Zinc and Phosphorus are found in meat, seafood, and poultry and Magnesium is in lentils and whole grains.

Vitamins and minerals are essential to a teen’s healthy diet, but there is no need to stress about how to get them in your daily meals. If teens just try to eat a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats, they will be eating vitamins and minerals without even knowing it!

Consuming nutritious food helps teens not only do well academically, but also prevent issues such as eating disorders, obesity, and dental problems.

Teens just need to eat a balanced diet; it it okay to occasionally eat foods that may not be the healthiest. No single food harms your brain, but certain foods are more beneficial for brain health.

What foods teens eat, and the quantities affect their attention, memory, and ability to focus. This translates to how well teens do in school. No specific foods will make you do better on a test, but if you want to give yourself an advantage, you should start your day with a nutritious breakfast.

If teens stay active and try to incorporate healthy foods into their diets, they can be assured that their brain will be working to its full potential and help them with performing their best academically.