One of the most common things that can be heard around campus is that students are not getting enough sleep. The idea that sleep is a commodity and not a necessity has become ingrained in our society. In today’s culture, a lack of sleep among teenagers has become normalized, discouraging students from getting rest, adding to academic pressure and enforcing the belief that sleep is inconsequential.
According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the average teenager gets between seven and 7 1/4 hours of sleep per night, while studies have shown that students need between nine and 9 1/2 hours of sleep. Many students have become used to getting an insufficient amount of sleep and have heard of similar experiences from their peers. This dialogue can lead students to not get enough sleep because they can rationalize their behaviors by thinking that everyone else is doing it, so it is okay. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), 83 percent of students at Gunn get fewer than nine hours of sleep per night. Since the majority of students do not get enough rest, it is easy to follow the norm rather than be the outlier.
Often, people say they have busy schedules and therefore cannot change their sleeping behaviors. This is why, many times, students can feel trapped. They know that they should get more rest but cannot, because they have a plethora of academic and extracurricular activities that cut into the time they have to sleep. One solution for students is to prioritize sleep over academics, or refrain from doing activities that do not fit into their already busy schedules. According to a study conducted by the Society for Research in Child Development, sacrificing sleep is counterproductive. The study found that any disturbance to regular amounts of
sleep will cause academic defects the following day. Additionally, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, loss of sleep leads to lower grades, less motivation and drastic emotional and behavioral changes. This demonstrates that sleep deficiency produces a state in which students are unprepared to learn or perform in school. A lack of sleep is more harmful than most perceive.
Sporadic sleep schedules can throw off the body’s natural circadian rhythm, resulting in difficulty waking up or going to sleep and academic stress. According to the CHKS, 41 percent of students at Gunn sleep at different times three to four or more times a week. This is not a beneficial habit, since maintaining regular sleep times improves health. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sleeping at regular intervals helps improve the quality of rest an individual gets. Keeping up a daily sleep routine helps students wake up and fall asleep more easily, which leads to more sleep and academic success.
Lastly, the importance of sleep is severely undervalued in our culture, as sleep is not seen as a necessity to a healthy life. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, sleep plays a vital role in good health as it helps protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. Essentially, sleep is necessary in order to function as a normal, healthy human being. Therefore, sleep should be taken more seriously because health should be as important as one’s academics or extracurriculars. If sleep is not taken seriously, symptoms like depression, chronic stress and cognitive impairment can arise, according to the Alaska Sleep Clinic.
Due to the nature of our toxic sleep culture, students rationalize unhealthy sleeping patterns, performance in school is reduced and school is prioritized over health. In order to overcome these norms, students can set a rigid sleep schedule and realize that the benefits of sleep outweigh extra time to study because sleep improves health and academics.