Lack of Sleep Causes Problems for Students

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Across the country, getting enough sleep is a problem for most high school students, and West Po is no exception. A study about American high schoolers’ sleep published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found the vast majority of high schoolers were not getting enough sleep.

According to the study, just 7.6% of students reported getting a healthy amount of sleep on an average school night, while 68.9% reported insufficient sleep. A healthy amount of sleep for a teenager is 9.25 hours, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Females and African-American students most commonly reported unhealthy sleep amounts. Here at West Po, it is rare to get through a day without hearing people complain about being tired. This is cause for concern as a lack of sleep can have adverse effects, both short and long-term.

It is clear that insufficient sleep is a problem here at West Po. Mrs. Paula Treherne, who teaches sophomore Health and PE at West Po, notices the problem in her classes. She explained in an interview, “Probably every day there’s at least one or two kids in my classes that are tired and not just like tired bored, tired like they aren’t getting enough sleep.”
Mrs. Treherne explained why insufficient sleep can be problematic as your brain cannot function on insufficient sleep, leading to problems with school, including lower grades. She also mentioned that your body has trouble managing calories without enough rest, which can lead to weight gain.

Mrs. Treherne is right when it comes to the negative effects caused by lack of sleep. According to John Hopkins sleep researcher, Patrick Finan, insufficient sleep increases your risk for depression and anxiety. It also increases dementia risk by 33%, according to Finan. Additionally, a lack of sleep can cause weight gain. When sleep deprived, the body produces more hunger hormones and less appetite-control hormones. Not getting enough sleep can also affect your grades, as the fuzzy thinking and lack of concentration caused by sleep deprivation can lower your ability to produce quality work, according to Finan. These effects of sleep deprivation illustrate why widespread lack of sleep among high school students at West Po is a big problem.

Mrs. Treherne attributes the sleep problem to both students’ sleep patterns and their stress levels. She explains that students generally want to stay up late and sleep late, which does not work well with school starting so early. She also believes students get insufficient sleep because of their stress levels caused by homework, saying, “They’ve [students] got a lot of homework, and I have really good kids that are really tired, so they’re taking lots of AP classes I believe, and then they’re doing homework ‘till all hours.”

Another big factor in insufficient sleep for high school students is the combination of homework and after school activities. Sophomore Dylan Black shared a perfect example of this, saying, “Extracurricular activities make me get home until like six [o’clock], and by that point, I have so much homework that’s already been piled up over the week, so I have to work on it until like 10 [o’clock], at least, and then I wanna have at least some amount of relaxation time.” This demonstrates how the combination of extracurricular activities and homework leads to students not getting enough sleep.

Luckily for high school students, there are some ways to help maintain a healthy sleep schedule. According to the National Sleep Foundation, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can help. This helps your body establish a consistent pattern to get in sync with, which will help you fall asleep quicker and easier. Another recommendation is to avoid drinking, eating, or exercising a few hours before going to bed. Additionally, it is also best to avoid watching television or using your phone or computer in the hour before you go to bed. Sticking to calm activities before bed will help you fall asleep more easily. Feeling at least some stress is common for most high schoolers, and this can make it more difficult to fall asleep. However, writing down a to-do list or summary of what is going on in your life can help you avoid worrying about it as you try to sleep, making falling asleep a much faster process. These tips can help you develop a healthier sleep schedule, making it easier for you to enjoy the time you are awake.

When asked about how students can get more sleep, Mrs. Treherne said taking phones away at night could help students get more sleep. She explains, “when they [students] finally go to bed, they’ve got their phone with them in their bed keeping them awake.” Aside from that, Mrs. Treherne says cutting down on homework would help, though she is unsure of exactly how to do that. She said, “I just think with the homework piece there’s too much, and I’m not sure what the solution is to that.”