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Are you getting enough sleep? Probably not.

A study showed that only 15% of teenagers reported sleeping for enough hours nightly. That’s not good—think of all the wasted z’s. But the real problem is that people our age have no idea how important sleeping is, and how to do it properly. So, on top of learning how to find the maximum of a quadratic function, how to analyze Shakespeare, how to conjugate Spanish verbs, and how to draw a human kidney, you need to learn how to sleep.

Though it may not seem like it to you, sleep is just as important as diet and exercise; it’s a crucial component to a healthy lifestyle. Sleep is your body’s way of recoiling from the stresses of the day, ridding your bloodstream of toxins, and fighting any germs you picked up while you were awake. Because brain and muscle activity decrease when you fall asleep, your body can divert that energy to getting you ready for being alert and on top of things the next day.

Notice how, normally, you have to try really hard to stay awake? That’s because your body wants to fall asleep—it needs to fall asleep. Think of not sleeping as akin to not eating or not breathing—it’s a natural process that needs to take place, otherwise bad things will happen including, but certainly not limited to, the following:

  • An unconquerable urge to stay in bed when your alarm goes off in the morning
  • Being an irritable zombie when you do get out of bed
  • Maiming yourself by falling down the stairs, accidentally placing your hand on a hot stove, or sticking a toothbrush in your eye
  • Wrecking your car on the way to school
  • Falling asleep in every class
  • Forgetting to write down your homework because you were asleep in class
  • Being kicked out of sports/play practice because you can’t keep your head up for more than a half second
  • Having no extracurricular activities because you got kicked out of them
  • Wrecking your car on the way home from school
  • Falling asleep at dinner and having your head crash into your plate of spaghetti
  • Forgetting to do your homework because you forgot to write it down

Bottom line: if you’re not getting enough sleep, you need to get on that pronto. Think of how hard it would be to fill out college applications if you keep dozing off at your computer.

But how much sleep is enough sleep? For teens ages 14-17, the sweet spot is between 8 and 10 hours per night. So, if you wake up at 6 every morning, going to sleep at 10 or earlier the night before will put you right on track. You can shorten that to 7 hours if needed, but not frequently. In the event that you don’t get your full 8-10 hours, sleeping for longer the next night doesn’t compensate for it. It takes your body several days to return to its normal sleep schedule after a disruption. That’s why it’s crucial to get into a routine.

And then comes the tricky part: actually falling asleep. Here is an hour-by-hour guide if you want to fall asleep at 10pm:

4pm: WORK: No more caffeine (so no afternoon run to Starbucks)
-Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter melatonin, which begins the sleep cycle
-Instead of a latte after school, eat a banana, yogurt, or eggs (all contain tryptophan, which aids in the production of melatonin)

8pm: STUDY: Finish eating dinner and exercising
-Digestion takes energy and increases heart rate, so you’ll want to get it started as early as possible
-Daily exercise has been proven to help you fall asleep, but it must be done regularly
-Finish your homework/studying during this time

9pm: RELAX: No more electronics or homework; avoid all stressors
-Doing work strains your eyes and increases your heart rate, which stresses your brain out
-Electronics emit blue light, which stunts the production of melatonin
-You may want to try 5-10 minutes of meditation every day right before bed to destress
-Listening to music, drawing, or reading (actual paper) is also helpful
-Taking a warm shower before bed is believed to be cleansing and relaxing

10pm: SLEEP: Lights out
-This is kind of self-explanatory

If you’re looking for more information about sleep, here’s a great BuzzFeed list.

Sleep, man. It’s important.

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