Sleep deprivation diminishes mental ability and memory, and adolescent students are among the most at risk, says the Globe and Mail newspaper of Canada. “Lack of sleep in children and adolescents is also linked to behavioral problems, irritability and hyperactivity.” Scientists studied the sleep habits of some 2,200 high school students and found that about 47 percent were getting less than the recommended eight hours of sleep each night.

While their life-style often deprives youths of needed sleep, “some of them also may be suffering from undiagnosed medical problems,” says the Globe. “Sleep APNEA affects some 4 per cent of children, aged 4 to 18.” During sleep, the airway at the back of the throat either partially or completely closes, restricting oxygen flow. Thus, the brain does not completely relax, and children wake up tired and cranky.

Signs of a possible disorder include snoring or sneezing during sleep, frequent headaches in the morning, and memory and concentration problems, as well as continual, extreme daytime sleepiness. Parents are encouraged to listen to their children when they are in a deep sleep.

Dr. Robert Brouillette, a pediatric sleep expert at Montreal Children’s Hospital, says that a child with a disorder may stop breathing while sleeping, even though the chest may be heaving. “The pause will be terminated with an arousal where the child wakes up or partially wakes up [and] takes few breaths before falling right back to sleep.” Such episodes can occur hundreds of times each night and cause a child to feel exhausted upon awakening.