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Health Capsules
September 2005
Getting Enough Sleep

Teens tend to get a lot less sleep once school starts. Without enough sleep, their performance in class and after-school activities can suffer, and their risk for sports-related and other injuries increases. Behind the wheel, they can be deadly.

“Young drivers, especially young men, are at high risk for serious car crashes related to drowsy driving,” Dr. Carl E. Hunt, director of NIH’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, says. “Unfortunately, many teens regularly sacrifice hours of sleep to accommodate life’s increasing demands—school work, jobs, extracurricular activities and socializing—at a time when maturational changes delay the natural timing of feeling tired in the evening.”

Both the body and mind need sleep. People who don’t get enough sleep have more memory lapses and are more likely to develop behavioral problems and moodiness. Recent research even links disrupted sleep patterns with excessive weight gain and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Along with pencils, binders and backpacks, make adequate nighttime sleep a “back to school” priority. Experts recommend at least nine hours of sleep per night for adolescents as well as younger, school-aged children for their health, safety and best performance in school and other activities.

Wise Choices iconWise Choices
Sleep Tips:

  • Set a regular time for bed each night and stick to it.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Avoid big meals close to bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine less than six hours before bedtime.

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  Dangerous Steroid Use    

It’s not just major league athletes who are taking shortcuts to bulking up these days. A recent survey supported by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that approximately 3.4% of high school seniors have used anabolic steroids—synthetic versions of the primary male sex hormone testosterone. Teens may take anabolic steroids in the hopes of looking more muscular or enhancing certain types of performance, but these are dangerous drugs that can cause a host of severe, long-lasting and sometimes irreversible health effects.

Anabolic steroids promote the growth of skeletal muscle and the development of male sexual characteristics. Doctors prescribe them to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases.

People take steroids orally or inject them, typically in cycles of weeks or months (referred to as “cycling”) rather than continuously. Those who abuse steroids typically “stack” the drugs, taking two or more different steroids, mixing oral and/or injectable types and sometimes even including compounds that are designed for veterinary use.

Abuse of anabolic steroids can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible. Studies show that, over time, abuse of steroids is associated with higher risks for heart attacks and strokes and increased risk of liver problems. It can also cause undesirable body changes, including breast development and genital shrinking in men, male characteristics like facial hair or a deeper voice in women, and acne and hair loss in both sexes. People who abuse steroids may exhibit aggression and extreme mood swings and delusions, sometimes leading to violent behavior. Those who inject steroids also run the added risk of contracting or transmitting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, which causes serious damage to the liver.

Ironically, teens who abuse steroids may never reach their full adult height. The body is programmed to stop growing after puberty. When hormone levels reach a certain point, the body thinks it’s already gone through puberty, so bones get the message to stop growing way too soon.

Parents aiming to prevent steroid abuse in their teens may find that a balanced approach to talking about both the risks and benefits of anabolic steroid use is most effective for convincing them about steroids’ negative effects. It’s much healthier to build up muscle the natural way, by eating right and exercising.

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NIDA Back to School:
Free information for students, parents and teachers featuring the latest science-based drug abuse publications and teaching materials. From NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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