I sleep an uncanny amount for a highschooler. I make a point out of it. My friends, unfortunately, don’t seem to have the same patterns. They are not alone. A 2019 article by Stanford Medicine addressed that 7/10 high school students fall short of the recommended 9-10 hours per night. But why?
Questioning my friends, the answer nearly always lies in staying up late due to schoolwork. Piling extracurricular activities with AP classes and early school mornings makes little time left for a full night’s rest. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. Thus, sacrifices have to be made, and time-crunched students prioritize what has to happen over what is slightly less necessary. This is where it all goes wrong.
School comes first, sports second, and sleep third, right? Right. It all works okay. Go to school, go to sports or other activities, then stay up doing homework until one, two, three am in the morning. It works okay: until it doesn’t.
Sleep, as many students like to disregard, is essential to brain functioning and development. As explained by The National Library of Medicine, “Being tired affects your memory, your concentration and, most seriously, your motivation.” Additionally, the UCLA Center for the Developing Adolescent reminds the struggling teenager that “An average of 9 hours of sleep per night has been shown to be best for peak mental health…The amount of sleep an adolescent gets, the quality of that sleep, and the consistency of nightly sleep all appear to directly affect brain functioning in regions crucial for self-control, learning, emotional reactivity, and reward processing. Insufficient sleep is linked to lower academic achievement.”
Sleep came first. It came before school and extracurricular activities and college applications. It is not “optional.” The rest of it, in a way, is. Everyone I know seems to forget that. They forget it, and start disregarding sleep for school. Then, a disastrous cycle begins. Students who attempt to complete everything by staying up ridiculously late then require more energy to process information in school the next day. Motivation begins to slip, and mental health worsens.
Though this is not the case for everyone, it is common enough. All those AP classes, extracurriculars, and daunting thoughts of the future become nothing but major causes of anxiety. It’s so common in fact that teenagers consider it normal to be in a constant state of stress.
I firmly believe this should not be the case. The major things in your life are supposed to make you happy. If lack of sleep is one of the major causes of constant displeasure, then getting more sleep seems like a good first step towards cutting down on stress. To make some more time to snooze, something needs to change. And since it’s probably not going to be the amount of schoolwork, or the nearly unachievable credentials desired in college applications, it has to be you.
Start with looking at your own life. Not everything can be scheduled, but it’s miraculous how much of it can. It takes a bit of trial and error to make it all work, but if you have enough determination, there’s usually something that can be done to free up time. It would be wrong to say everyone can rearrange their lives to make it all work, but it would also be wrong to say nobody can. There is always something capable of changing. Talking to your teachers, working on weekends, cutting out clubs you aren’t passionate about, and finding help for homework assignments that take far too much time are all good places to start.
High school is nerve racking and exhausting. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is go back to bed.