A freshman closes his eyes for just a second, resting them. The hair of this boy sticks up all over as he puts his head in his hands to momentarily alleviate the load. Slowly, he finds himself drifting in and out of consciousness. Realizing his teacher is looking away, the freshman falls asleep. His elbow slides slowly off his desk until it falls off the edge, scaring him and making him jump in his seat.
According to psychology teacher Mr. Reis, teenagers are supposed to get eight or nine hours of sleep a night, but most teens are lucky to get six or seven. This “sleep debt” causes students to miss out on rapid eye movement, (REM), the stage of the sleep cycle during which the body does its most vivid dreaming.
“It has been estimated that 80 percent of teenagers are sleep deprived,” Reis said.
This has caused a problem in society by contributing to obesity, depression, diabetes, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For students specifically, a lack of sleep can lead to a lack of focus in class. The temporal lobe of the brain is where a person’s auditory skills reside, meaning that when a student is sleep deprived they hear what the teacher is saying in class, but are unable to process it as a result of their sleep deprivation.
AHS nurse Heidi Chaff revealed that sleep is a big part of development for students in highs school; it is a very big part of brain and body development. Unfortunately, sleep tends to get worse the older the student gets which significantly impacts this development.
“Typically you would want 8-9 hours of sleep a night, but I would say the majority of students get far less,” Chaff said. “I think that when freshmen come in they are just trying to get acclimated to the high school and the ropes and finding their way around the building. They sort of have more basic needs but then as you get more acclimated and you’re getting older people take on more responsibly.”
According to a health survey for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7–19 percent of adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day. Nearly 40 percent of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month. Also, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic (ongoing) sleep disorders, according to the NIH.
“I have a good amount of trouble falling asleep, especially knowing that I might not have finished some work from the day before,” Senior CJ Morse explains. “If the teachers could postpone the deadlines for homework and projects or decrease the amount of work I have maybe I could get more sleep.”
Students like Morse agree that changes need to be made in the form of less homework and a later first bell so that students can acquire at least the adequate number of hours of sleep required for them to successfully pay attention in class.
Sophomore Phoebe Hamori also agrees that changes must be made, especially since the detriments of sleep deprivation are evident in her own school day. “Math is my strongest class and it is last block,” Hamori explained. “I feel if my first block class was math and my fourth block class was history, then I would have a better grade in history.”
Studies recommend that if you are having trouble falling to sleep one should get out of bed and walk around a bit. Another strategy that has been suggested is to sit in a comfortable chair or couch to read, letting your mind relax and focus on that you should be falling asleep.
By Hannah Jablonki