Invest in Rest

High schoolers’ lives tend to revolve around school, sports, and friends. Keeping a balance among these things is necessary, but one very important thing many high school students tend to overlook is sleep. From ages 14 to 18, high schoolers are at a time of their lives in which their bodies are growing a changing. During this time, students need a lot of sleep, but many get dangerously little sleep.

School is one of the main influences on how much sleep a student gets. “The amount of homework or studying I have to do controls how much sleep I get,” said junior Alexander Principe. “I usually wait until after I eat dinner to start my homework, and after I finish, I go to bed a few minutes to an hour later. If I stay up late and don’t get enough sleep, sometimes it’s harder to stay awake or focus on class.”

Principe sees the effects of little sleep around him every day. “I haven’t really struggled with a lack of sleep before, but there are some people in my class who I can tell only get three to four hours of sleep every night,” said Principe. “The result is that they struggle to stay awake and sometimes fall asleep during class and miss important information.”

According to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, teenagers need between nine and nine-and-a-half hours of sleep per night. However, many students do not get this much. “I usually get anywhere from five to seven hours of sleep on weekdays,” said Principe. “Over the weekend I probably get seven to nine hours of sleep.”

Junior Owen Fraley joins Principe as part of the large number of students who do not get the recommended amount of sleep. “On average I’d say I get around six hours of sleep on a school night,” said Fraley. “There are obviously some exceptions, like on book test days when I stay up until three a.m. listening to the audiobook. But generally, I get about six hours.

“I personally feel like I don’t get enough sleep,” said Fraley. “It has severely affected me on days where I need to do some emergency studying for a test I had forgotten about, and I can’t memorize all the information fast enough because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.”

Fraley knows that he does not get enough sleep, but it is not always by his own choice. “My body is on a schedule, whether I like it or not,” he said. “I don’t get tired until after 11 p.m., and I have to wake up early because I live 30 minutes from Catholic High. Even when I go to bed early, I still can’t fall asleep until after 11 p.m.  Sometimes, though, I’ll get super interested in a subject and have to learn everything about it so I just stay up until four a.m. going down Wikipedia rabbit holes.”

Fraley, from his own experience, recognizes the detriments that a lack of sleep causes. “I think it does affect my performance because I have noticed I am much less motivated to do my work on days when I am not well-rested,” said Fraley. “I also have more trouble retaining information and recalling it on tests.”

The National Library of Medicine has done studies on the relationship between lack of sleep and the ability to focus. “The decrease in attention and working memory due to sleep deprivation is well established. Vigilance is especially impaired, but a decline is also observed in several other attentional tasks. These include measures of auditory and visuo-spatial attention, serial addition and subtraction tasks, and different reaction time tasks.”

Therefore, when students do not get enough sleep, they are unable to pay attention as much in class, and they cannot remember as much information as they normally would be able to. While he is not an expert, Fraley has first-hand experience of the effects of a lack of sleep. “I think sleep is very important for high schoolers, and I think they should get more sleep because getting adequate sleep generally makes school more tolerable,” said Fraley. “It is hard to focus and learn material when you are using all your energy trying not to fall asleep.”

While missing out on a few hours of sleep may not seem like a big deal, it has lasting effects. According to the Sleep Foundation, “Sleeping problems are even more prevalent in adolescents. Data from the CDC indicates that over 57% of middle school students and 72% of high school students reported sleeping less than what was recommended based on their age. For as many as 23.8% of adolescents, the problem is significant enough to be considered insomnia, a serious sleep disorder that involves noticeable daytime impairment. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to emotional issues and behavior problems that may affect academic achievement.”

Not getting enough sleep affects students in both the short term and the long term. As the National Library of Medicine says, “The cumulative effects of sleep loss and sleep disorders have been associated with a wide range of deleterious health consequences including an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke.”

At school, one of the main things study hall teachers attempt to do is keep students from sleeping. This, however, may be negatively impacting students’ performance in school. Research shows that short naps help exponentially. According to WebMD, “The 20-minute power nap is good for alertness and motor learning skills like typing. Research shows longer naps help boost memory and enhance creativity. Slow-wave sleep — napping for approximately 30 to 60 minutes — is good for decision-making skills, such as memorizing vocabulary or recalling directions. Getting rapid eye movement or REM sleep, usually 60 to 90 minutes of napping, plays a key role in making new connections in the brain and solving creative problems.”

Fraley is a proponent of teachers allowing students to nap in study hall. “Short power naps are good for alertness,” he said. “I think it would be cool if teachers allowed naps in study hall.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *