It has happened to all of us. One minute you’re listening to the teacher drone on about the importance of slime mold, then all of a sudden the bell rings, waking you from blissful homework-free oblivion.
Sleep deprivation in students around the world has been a problem for as long as politicians worried about test scores. (So basically forever, right?) So if this is a well known problem, why do we not anything? Students still cram through the night and teachers still pile on the homework, both well aware we will sleep only 5-6 hours that night.
Teenagers have a different sleep schedule than adults and kids. Their bodies start producing melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, around 11 p.m. and stop around 8 a.m. According to the National Sleep Foundation poll, up to 28 percent of students fall asleep during first period because their bodies keep producing melatonin.
So if we’re still producing sleep-inducing hormones while we’re in school, why do schools keep pushing back the time? According to some politicians, earlier starting times contribute to better test scores, but research from the National Sleep Foundation disagrees.
Lack of sleep can be harmful for any academic driven student. As tempting as cramming is, it is not worth the fatigue and health risks that come with it. Research has proven that sleep deprivation leads to child obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety. It is also one of the leading causes of automobile accidents. (Right next to texting, drinking and all of those other distractions.)
Overall, students are more likely to do better on exams on a good night’s sleep (8.5- 9 hours) than studying all through the night. According to UCLA professor Andrew J. Fuligni and graduate student Cari Gillen-O’Neel, sacrificing sleep is ineffective.
“No one is suggesting that students shouldn’t study,” said Fuligni. “But an adequate amount of sleep is also critical for academic success. These results are consistent with emerging research suggesting that sleep deprivation impedes leaning.”
So what does this mean for students? If no one else takes charge over our health, it is up to us to change our habits. No matter how lazy or super busy you are, sleep is most important. Your sleeping patterns now influence your sleeping patterns in the future (college, workforce, etc.). This is not to say you should sleep all through high school, but that you should create a consistent schedule to maintain good health.
For those with the temptation to procrastinate (that would be all of us), STOP. Easier said than done, right? But procrastination means unproductive work time which means working later in the day to finish homework or study. As tempting as it is to check Twitter or watch the latest Walking Dead episode, save it for after the school work is done. (Maybe as a reward?)
For all those over-achievers out there who have multiple AP classes, one or two or five extracurricular to participate in plus family obligations, we advise you to prioritize. We understand the struggle of trying to add to your college resume, but believe us when we say you have to enjoy high school too. Maybe this means dropping one club or doing homework in any spare moment during school. As long as you have a schedule that includes at least eight hours of sleep, you should be fine.
Although our schedules are full, and the only time to do homework or study is after dinner, sometimes we have to say no, for health’s sake. We can try prioritizing or stop procrastinating, but let’s face it, if we didn’t have that one extra club or group meeting after school, we could finish homework while still being able to stay awake during class the next day.
If you think this does not apply to you, think again. So what you can stay up until 3 a.m. and still be awake the next day. Anyone running on less than 6 hours of sleep will not be fully alert or comprehensive the next day. And that is endangering not only yourself, but everyone around you too. So do everyone a favor and get a good night’s rest EVERY night.