Developing Digital Fluency (Part 7)

By: Erik Most
Is your teenager always tired, yawning, or napping throughout the day? Surely, they’re too young to feel this way right? CCA’s High School Bible teacher Erik Most shares insight into why nearly 60% of GenZ students complain about tiredness and what you can do to make sure your growing adolescent is getting ample, quality sleep each night.

In a recent study surveying over 1,500 students from Gen Z, one data point stood out – students experienced this one negative emotion more than all the rest. If you had to guess, what do you think it would be?

Nearly 60% of students claimed they feel tired a lot or some of the time.
We must instill a love for reading in our students to capture back what is being lost to the digital age.
In his book, Why We Sleep, Dr. Matthew Walker identifies sleep loss as a defining issue plaguing our society. He recognizes that this is quite a statement. But Dr. Walker goes even further and identifies a correlation between sleep and mental health issues in the lives of adolescents.

Applying this study to Gen Z, he says “there is now clearer evidence that insufficient sleep can lead to aggression, bullying, despondency, depression, and even suicidality.” Additionally, Walker notes that “While a full night of slumber stabilizes emotions, a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30% rise in anxiety levels, according to new research from UC Berkeley. Therefore, the quantity of sleep doesn’t just matter, it’s the quality of sleep that takes the prize.”
Therefore, the quantity of sleep doesn’t just matter, it’s the quality of sleep that takes the prize.
It seems as though a lot is riding on sleep. This is something that NBA player Andre Iguodala has applied to his professional career. He attributes his longevity in the league in part to his emphasis on sleep. Consider the following graph illustrating Iguodala’s performance as it relates to sleep.

On 8 hours of sleep, Iguodala saw a near 30% increase in points per minute, 12% increase in minutes per game, almost 10% increase in free throw percentage, and a marginal increase in the percentage of three-pointers. View Stats Here

And so, in light of all of this, let's take a step back and consider the big picture. In previous videos we have noted that the smartphone and social media have been catalysts in the rising statistics in anxiety and depression in Gen Z. With this new understanding of sleep, it brings different realities into view.

In my own personal research, 73% of sophomores at CCA have reported that their parents do not monitor their phone usage at all. A reasonable assumption therefore is that kids plug their phones in next to their beds at night. So now you have kids scrolling through social media, messaging and FaceTiming one another into the late hours of the night, robbing them of critical hours of sleep that they desperately need for holistic health. In this way, the smartphone erodes student health from both ends: it creates anxieties during the day then robs them of sleep at night – which is a critical tool they need to successfully cope with their anxieties.
the smartphone erodes student health from both ends: it creates anxieties during the day then robs them of sleep at night


The takeaway here is rather simple: we need to figure out ways to encourage better sleep habits in the lives of our students. Maybe that means cutting back on some overcommitments, but it likely means being more intentional about where our phones are located.
we need to figure out ways to encourage better sleep habits in the lives of our students.
Cal Newport suggests what he calls the “foyer rule.” It means that as soon as you enter the house, the phone stays in a specific location, such as a table in the foyer. It does not travel room to room with you. If you need it you can walk over and do whatever you need to do, but it must stay there when you’re done. The decreased dependency and exposure could help students focus more on tasks at hand and wind down a little more quickly at night. Both of these would undoubtedly help encourage better sleep habits in the lives of our students.

Something else that should be regulated is caffeine consumption (volume and timing), as it can also disrupt sleep. According to the U.S. News & World Report, “adolescents are reportedly the fastest-growing population of caffeine users in America. Research indicates 83 percent of teens drink caffeinated beverages regularly, and nearly 96 percent consume them occasionally” (Lohmann, 2018). Though coffee, soda, or energy drinks are popular beverages, they should be consumed in moderation and not taken within six hours of bedtime (Ward, 2017). The irony is that these drinks are sought after for their boosting capabilities, however, dependency on them can also contribute to chronic tiredness and insomnia . . . and round and round we go.

Erik Most has been a High School Bible teacher at CCA for eight years. He teaches the class Christ and Culture and is currently the Lead for High School Discipleship. He completed his undergraduate degree at Wheaton College and earned his Master of Divinity at Knox Theological Seminary. Most serves as an elder at Rio Vista Community Church where he attends with his wife Meagan and their son August.

And this concludes Mr. Most’s seven-part series! We pray you have found it informative and enlightening. If you missed his previous articles/videos, check out the links below!

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