The Saliency of Sleep


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that teenagers should get between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. If I were to take a poll of high school students in my community and ask whether they slept that much, unfortunately, I think I would be highly disappointed by their responses. It isn’t just Pine Crest students, though, a study completed in 2018 reveals that up to 73% of high school students from 30 states in the U.S. are not getting enough sleep. Why is this happening? 

According to Carrie Bruno, a registered nurse and the founder of The Mama Coach (an organization to promote sleep), it has become a societal norm for teenagers to get less sleep than they need. Many students feel that they have to sacrifice their sleep to achieve everything they want and need to, such as taking on a full course load, participating in extracurricular activities, and spending time with friends and family. However, a continued lack of sleep can eventually severely affect one’s physical and mental well-being. 

There are far more consequences to being sleep deprived than simply being tired. On the contrary, someone with sleep deprivation puts themself more at risk of developing health conditions. Specifically, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Further, a lack of sleep can contribute to increased moodiness, difficulty staying awake and focused during the day, disinterest in activities of interest, depression-like symptoms, and drowsiness while driving, which can be a threat not only to oneself but to everyone else on the road. This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation can create cognitive impairment that is equivalent to drinking alcohol. A blog article published by Harvard University stated that “According to the CDC, staying awake for 18 hours can have the same effect as a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 percent. Staying awake for 24 hours can equate to a BAC of 0.10 percent,” which is higher than the legal limit. 

Even after reading about these potential consequences, students may believe that these side effects of sleep deprivation won’t happen to them or that their grades and staying up late to study are “worth it.” However, it has been found that students who make sleep a priority are more likely to see an improvement in their academic performance. When a student is well rested, they will not experience the same daytime sleepiness as those who don’t get sufficient sleep, making them more productive and better able to concentrate while working. 

Not only does sleep increase productivity, but it also is an essential factor in one’s ability to consolidate memories. An article by the Sleep Foundation states that “Sleep is believed to help with memory and cognitive thinking…a major theory on why humans sleep, posits that sleep is necessary so the brain can grow, reorganize, restructure, and make new neural connections.” Therefore, when students stay up late into the night studying or working, they are actually making their lives harder. 

Now you may wonder what you can do to improve your sleep, and I have a few suggestions. First, it is beneficial for students to limit caffeine intake as it gets closer to bedtime, as their bodies can begin to relax and get quality sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that boosts energy, making it hard to sleep. Also, because it has been found that increased screen time closer to bedtime poses an obstacle to sleep, it is best to try to avoid screens within an hour of rest. Perhaps, you could set a timer on your phone to turn off notifications after a certain time, making you less likely to give in to the urge to check your messages. Having a peaceful sleeping environment may help. Being active and exercising is important and contributes to better sleep quality, but intense exercise within two hours before bed may make it harder to sleep. Establishing a sleep schedule that includes wind-down time can also be beneficial when trying to create healthier sleep habits. 

It may be tempting to wait to go to bed for one more hour to get in more studying or watch a good Netflix show, but trust me, that extra hour of sleep will serve you well!