By Hansa Bhargava, MD
I met a girl, Julia, in my office the other day. She’s 15 and came in because she’d been feeling really tired. Her mom said she had a hard time getting up for school and couldn’t concentrate in her classes. She got an “F” on her last math test and she was worried about her grade point average. ”I am going to be a junior next year and I have SATs,” she told me.
When we started talking about a typical day for her, the real problem started becoming a bit clearer.
Julia gets out of bed about 10 minutes before she has to leave for school. She throws on her clothes and runs to catch the bus. Forget breakfast. She doesn’t even have time to drink a glass of water before she goes. She barely drags herself into her first class. By her second class, she’s so hungry that she can’t pay attention to the teacher because of the noises her stomach is making.
By lunch hour, she is ravenous and runs to the school cafeteria. Usually, she told me, she downs a bag of chips and a diet coke before she even gets to the cashier to pay for them. In the afternoon, she’s pretty sleepy and usually takes a nap when she gets home. Then she doesn’t go to sleep till 1am.
Have you ever done this? Not eaten breakfast and then totally inhaled tons of food – only to feel really sleepy in the afternoon?
Not eating breakfast and not sleeping enough can have this ‘domino effect’ on your life. You didn’t get enough sleep, so you didn’t have time for breakfast. Then you are so hungry that you want to eat your desk, so you overload at lunch. The big lunch makes you sleepy so you need a nap. Then you text until 1 am and the whole cycle starts again. The sad part is that it affects every part of your day AND your ability to pay attention in class. When Julia and I started talking about this, she realized it was a vicious cycle that she had to break. She started eating breakfast and going to bed by 10pm, and she’s now feeling much better and more energetic.
Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day. And getting enough sleep will make you more energetic, and help you concentrate more at school. These small changes can have a big impact!