We’ve all been there before. With 3 tests, 4 quizzes, 2 essays, a DBQ, and 6 chapters to annotate before the end of the week, all on top of 7 hours of volunteering and extracurriculars. A good night sleep is nearly impossible. 6 full hours? She comes every now and then. 2 am? We meet her every night. All-nighters? A love-hate relationship that gets things done with the hefty price of being brain-dead by second period. Decked in sweatpants and chugging pure espresso with dark circles the color of bruises, sleep is a long lost friend to high school students. And in its place is the infamous name of sleep deprivation.
The definition is simple – lack of sleep. More specifically, the sleep one’s body and mind needs in order to function and stay healthy. Although studies show that less than a whopping 79% of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep, sleep deprivation is usually passed along as a joke or a euphemism for the difficulties in school life. However, sleep affects our ability to function in drastic ways, and it should be addressed with more urgency.
The causes of sleep deprivation are pretty self-explanatory: chronic illnesses, depression, anxiety, insomnia, stress, lack of self-care and overload of work. For high school students, it’s typically homework, inability to manage time, or having too many activities after school. There is also intentional sleep deprivation where sleep is considered a waste of time and instead is substituted with pursuits of entertainment, educational goals, or other things that are considered a higher priority. Regardless of the cause, though, the detrimental outcomes are the same.
Sleep deprivation leads to lack of alertness, impaired memory, stress, mood swings, and an increased chance of accidents. But more than that, lack of sleep negatively affects students’ performance in school, the relationships they maintain with others, and their individual health. We’ve all had those moments when our brains seem to melt into sludge, or when we lash out at people for the most trivial things, only to regret it in the future. Not to mention looking into a mirror only to find a pair of bloodshot eyes and dark circles staring back. Although these occurrences take place on a daily basis, there is still a need to reinforce the importance of sleep in our daily lives and how it directly affects our health, actions, and those around us.
Many of us recognize the symptoms of fatigue due to lack of sleep but fail to submit to it, prioritizing our grades or friendships above it. Catherine Arcaris, a freshman at La Canada High, states, “Sleep gives me a chance to calm down, revisit the day, or think with clarity. It also gives me strength and energy for the next day. When I don’t get enough sleep, I am often unfocused, moody, lack motivation and effort in school. But sometimes, I forfeit it for homework or a school assignment because academics are more important to me”. Her words reflect the general response of high school students; they know it’s crucial but neglect to address it due to other priorities.
Since this is such an important issue, how can we work towards fixing it? Well, students should begin by learning how to manage their time better and make every minute of their day count. Studying for a test can be done in short intervals during a car ride, and students can reduce the time spent on devices or useless entertainment. Students should also set specific times and goals for completing a task and work towards sleeping at a set time. Starting off with those two methods can lead to the development of a healthier and more restful lifestyle, and we can start to avoid the negative consequences of sleep deprivation. So, the next time we greet a friend in the hallway, the sluggish looks and I-want-to-die exchanges can be replaced with enthusiasm and more positivity.
Joyce Kim, Grade 9
La Canada High School