Why are students so sleepy?

student sleeping in class

Sofia Farashian

student sleeping in class

Eight to ten hours. That is how much sleep is recommended for high school students, ages 14-17, in order to function at their best each day. This is even more than the recommended amount for fully developed adults, and even more than the amount of sleep recommended for younger children. So then why is it that students have such a poor relationship with their sleep schedules? It’s almost notorious that high school students get little sleep. You’ll hear some bragging to their friends about going to bed at three in the morning, or some getting no sleep at all. According to Denise Witmer, most teens average 7.4 hours of sleep every night. And many students get far less. Especially with the recent decline in teens’ mental health, sleep deprivation is affecting more students than ever.
Even receiving a few hours less of sleep than recommended is substantially harmful. In a study organized by David Dinges and lead author Hans Van Dongen, they found that those who received the proper recommended amount of sleep for their age demographic had few attention lapses and declines in cognitive functioning over a 14 day period. While the group receiving four hours, the least amount in the study, indubitably performed the worst of all control groups. However, the control group receiving six hours of sleep had major lapses as well, significantly worsening over the 14-day period. It was recorded that by the sixth day 25% of test subjects had fallen asleep while attempting to perform digital tasks, and that by the end of the study, the clients had five times more lapses in attention than the first day. Why wouldn’t the same apply to students?
Sleep is vital to teens, especially because sleep actually aids in bodily development. Physical growth and developmental hormones, hormones aiding in brain circuitry and sexual maturity are all released during sleep. Therefore, sleep deprivation may be preventing essential development, especially for hormonal teens. That’s why you may have heard that sleeping can allow you to grow taller, it’s because, well, it’s sort of true. Now, of course pulling a single all-nighter isn’t likely to majorly impact growth, development or overall health. However, according to the “CDC”, the U.S. national government center for disease control (and prevention), about seven out of ten high school students or “ (72.7%) did not get enough sleep on school nights” and it’s not as if these students all just decided consecutively to not sleep on the day this survey was conducted. The great majority of high school students are sleep-deprived consistently.
Once during Longhorn Time, the leaders came in and gave a lesson on the psychology of sleep. They did this due to the influx of students in this period bragging, or trying to upsize each other, talking about how little sleep they receive,
“I went to bed at 1:00 AM!”
“Oh really, well I only got three hours of sleep!”
“Sleep is for the weak! I don’t sleep at all!”
They seem to repeat how little they value sleep as if it’s some sort of accomplishment. It’s no accomplishment to damage your health. Some of these students will just stay up, playing games or completing schoolwork all night, others have insomnia due to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
This is clearly an issue affecting almost three-quarters of all students, and while some are recognizing it, it’s not enough. Sleep deprivation has long-term effects, ranging from anxiety and depression and other psychiatric disorders to heart attack and stroke. This is no light issue. Science has spoken, so rest easy, and sweet dreams!
Resources:
CDC. (2020, September 10). Sleep in Middle and High School Students. Www.cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/features/students-sleep.htm
Denise Witmer. (2019). How Much Sleep Does a Teenager Need? Verywellhealth. https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-much-sleep-does-your-teen-need-2606870
Rosenberg, C. (2019, April 8). 10 Effects of Long-Term Sleep Deprivation – Sleep Health Solutions. 10 Long Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation. https://www.sleephealthsolutionsohio.com/blog/10-effects-of-long-term-sleep-deprivation/