Every night my dad says to me “sleep is the number one most important thing.” However, I never listen and still go to bed at 3 am. So, why is sleep such a debated topic, and why does it seem like no one actually ever sleeps?
I know that my sleep schedule is non-existent, and has gotten significantly worse since the beginning of spring break and online school. That being said, I still feel fine during the day, no matter if I go to bed at 10 pm or 1 am on a school night. On the weekends, there is no saying how late I may stay up. Sometimes it’s 12:30 am, and other nights it’s 4:45 am. I was curious if other Hewitt students’ sleep schedules have changed since spring break and online school, so I did a survey.
The Sleep Health Foundation asserts that teenagers from the ages 14-17 are recommended to get 7 to 11 hours of sleep a night. It is not recommended that teens get less than 7 or more than 11. The Sleep Foundation says that “biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking during adolescence — meaning it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.” Before quarantine and spring break, I was going to bed around 11:00-11:30 pm every night and waking up at 7 am. That is about 8 hours of sleep, yet I still felt tired throughout the entire day. However, when I went to bed at 3 am and woke up at 2 pm, I felt great. That is about 11 hours of sleep.
I sent out a form to the Upper School to gather data about how much sleep each student was getting. The form included what time, on average, students went to bed before spring break, during spring break, and during quarantine. Before spring break, students went to bed at varying times: 26.7% of students were going to bed at 10 pm; 30.2% of students were going to bed on average at around 11 pm; 25.6% of students were going to bed at 12am; 9.3% of students were going to bed at 1 am. Considering that the school day starts at 8, it is assumed that most students wake up around 7 am. This means that the average sleep span for a student would be close to 6-9 hours each night. During spring break, the times varied again: 5.8% went to bed at 10pm; 5.8% went to bed at 11pm; 25.6% went to bed at 12am; 34.9% of students went to bed at 1am; 9.4% went to bed at 2 am. For the rest of the students, the times ranged from 2:30-6 am. Now, during online school: 10.5% are going to bed at 10pm; 18.6% of students are going to bed at 11 pm; 31.4% are going to bed at 12 am; 12.8% are going to bed at 1 am; 4.7% are going to bed at 2 am; and 5.8% are going to bed at 3 am. With online school starting at 9 am, it is assumed that most students wake up around 8 – 9 am. So, for the average student, their sleep span is 5-9 hours each night. These statistics brought up an important question. If students are still getting their work done while feeling content, despite the fact that they did not sleep for long, does going to sleep late actually have a negative impact on them?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep can affect success in school, weight, and mental health. It is argued that when teens get more sleep they are more alert and can be more productive. If it is natural for teens to not be able to go to sleep earlier than 11pm, and school requires students to wake up around 7am, it is nearly impossible to get no more than 8 hours of sleep. That being said, with all the stressors that come from both school and outside factors, it is often that those eight hours are not always quality sleep. Personally, 8 hours is not enough to feel energized and ready for a long day of school. In a study conducted in 2016 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 69% of high schoolers are sleeping less than the recommended 8 hours on a regular school night. Furthermore, The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “recommends that teens between 13 and 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” Life can get in the way of these 8-10 hours, that being said, they are necessary to stay healthy.
Ultimately, my dad is right: sleep is important. It is crucial for our physical and mental health, as well as our success in school. Sleep needs to be made a priority during this time of crisis, especially due to the fact that it greatly affects the immune system. So, as we are all watching tv tonight at 2 am, shut it off and go to sleep. For those who are being smart with their sleep schedule, keep going, it’s important.