The road to exhaustion

Stress Alex

Professor Teresa Paiva, sleep specialist and manager of CENC sleep center, writes about the overwhelming pressure faced by young people and adults, which can easily lead to burnout.


The road that leads to exhaustion is tortuous and cloudy, with twists and turns, it can be short or long and, these days, it is taken by children, teenagers, women, men, professionals and entrepreneurs. Many people take this sad road.

So it is worth asking how they get there and what there is to find. You might get by working hard, sleeping little and helping with stimulants, drugs or medicines.

You might say: Nonsense! How does a child come to that? Today, in quiet and sunny Portugal, many children and teenagers leave home in the morning and return only at night-time, after spending the day at school and in after-school tutoring programs and activities. They learn Spanish, English, tennis, swimming and horse riding, and more. They return home late, because their parents work until too late, they dine at 9 p.m., watch television or play playstation, iPad and computer games, exchange messages with their friends on the phone or in social networks and they go to bed around 11 p.m. or midnight, with their heads fed up, to sleep better or worse and wake up around 7 a.m., sleepy and irritable.

At weekends, there is still homework, often excessive, given the school overload. Altogether, they work at least 40 hours a week, which is to say as much or more than the official working time of an adult!

Consequences: eventually, these boys and girls will feel tired, nervous, with headaches and health complaints, but they will keep holding on and when they reach university, they will face the fact that they are not able to study, to guide their own lives nor to be autonomous. They are exhausted!

They are exhausted because, in order to prepare for life, children and young people simply need to play and enjoy some free time. They need to have limits when it comes homework and school time – and also to the amount of time they spend using the latest technologies.