Many students aren’t getting enough sleep, which can affect their health and academic performance.

Sophie Bourgoin

Sleepless in school

March 6, 2019

According to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NBHLI), teens aged 13-18 are recommended to get 8-10 hours of sleep per day. We collected data from a poll of 348 students about the average hours of sleep they get every night and 46.6 percent said they get 7-9 hours of sleep. However, 49.1 percent said they get only 4-6 hours of sleep a night. How does this lack of sleep affect students, and how does school make it difficult for students to get enough sleep?

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Why aren’t we sleeping?

For children, sleep means bedtime stories, grandma’s quilt and snuggling up with their teddy. For high school students, sleep is the unattainable bliss — the holy grail carefully hidden beyond the mountains of homework, sports practices, jobs and the temptation of social media.

Many students have full schedules with five to eight class periods, clubs, family responsibilities and more. While students are aware that sleep is important, they only seem to be getting more tired.

Naomi Voeller, a freshman taking Pre-IB classes and swimming for the Northshore YMCA club team, said that despite students having packed schedules, procrastination is one of the main contributors to students’ lack of sleep.

“One of my main problems would be that I tell myself I work best late at night, so I end up staying up late because I can’t function in the morning, which is kind of a bad habit,” Voeller said. “So, then I procrastinate and then I want [my work] to be perfect, so I end up having to stay up later because of perfectionism.”

In addition, the district’s plan for making up snow days will cause school to start ten minutes earlier beginning Monday, March 11, and all but three early release Wednesdays are now full days. This will give students even less time for homework, activities and rest.

Senior Marcos Valverde feels the pressure to succeed academically, but he said he deals with the stress by minimizing procrastination.

“I always try to manage my time really well, so I’m not a procrastinator, depending on the class. I prioritize a lot,” Valverde said.

Some students, like junior Billy Surdyk, an IB Diploma student and junior captain of the swim team, balance an academic workload as well as a schedule that can begin as early as 4:15 a.m.

“I’m fine by the end of the day; it’s just really rough getting up that early,” Surdyk said. “I tend to be in bed going to sleep before nine o’clock each night… because getting up that early for swim practice is really hard.”

While 41.4 percent of polled students said that they try to prioritize schoolwork and/or their job — compared to 17.7 percent prioritizing sleep and personal health — sometimes their busy schedules just don’t allow for homework and adequate sleep.

“Extracurriculars are a lot [to add to the school day]. Especially because I was doing IB last year, they kinda throw a lot of things at you at once and expect for you to have everything done and don’t take anything else into consideration,” Valverde said. “They think that school is my first priority — which it is — but I have some other stuff I’d like to do too.”

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Sleep deprivation takes its toll

For many students, a significant loss of sleep can have serious repercussions beyond just nodding off in class. While getting rest is important, school nurse Carol Ward said there are more to the symptoms students usually exhibit than just tiredness.

“If you don’t have enough sleep, it can actually make you crazy, and you can act like you’re drunk,” Ward said, “And most of the time, I would probably say that people are just really tired and they’re feeling nauseous, or they have a bad headache, but then again a lot of that time, it’s those people that haven’t had enough to eat and they haven’t had enough to drink either. And they’re feeling stressed out.”

Sophomore Lydia Morgan said she has experienced similar, yet less extreme, symptoms.

“If I’m very tired and haven’t gotten a lot of sleep, then it’s just kind of hard for me to focus in on what’s being taught in class, and pretty much all I’m thinking about is how tired I am,” Morgan said.

Even after later start times were implemented in 2017, an overwhelming 90.5 percent of students said school culture promotes academic and extracurricular success over student sleep and health.

“I think Inglemoor does focus on student health but not at the level that I think every student here needs,” junior Zaina Rizvi said. “Maybe it isn’t a school’s job to make sure a kid is having a happy life, but I think they have to make sure their kids are well-rounded.”

Lack of focus caused by sleep deprivation can be very dangerous in situations where people have to drive. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk).”

This poses a serious potential threat for students who don’t have time to get enough sleep or don’t prioritize sleep and have to drive to school in the morning.

“In the wintertime, I was scared to drive. I made my mom drive me to school multiple times because I am paranoid of falling asleep on the road,” Rizvi said, “because this has happened to me — in the day as well — where I’ll be driving and I’ll like space out.”

This isn’t unusual, considering the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports one in twenty-five adults having experienced drowsy driving.

Students also emphasized that a lack of sleep takes a negative toll on their performance in and enjoyment of activities.

“If you get a good night’s sleep,” Morgan said, “then I feel like you just overall have more energy and are better able to focus in, and that’s what helps to be more successful.”

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