Sleep deprivation affects student performance


Art by Paige Martin

Sam Mitchell

Art by Paige Martin
Art by Paige Martin
Each morning I wake up around 6:30 a.m. with my mind in a daze.  I hear the alarm poundingincessantly in my ear, and I blindly swing my hand at the clock trying to stop the noise.  After a few seconds of fumbling around, I find the snooze button and the noise stops; I am allowed to sleep for another nine minutes.
This process repeats every nine minutes until I’m finally conscious enough to realize I’ll be late to school. At that point, why not hit the snooze button one more time?  Nine minutes turns to 45, and I am late to my first class. It has gotten to the point where I don’t even realize that the alarm has gone off until I’ve already hit snooze three or four times; I sleep right through it.
When I finally straggle into the classroom after the tardy bell, I’m still in a sleep daze, tired from my lack of sleep the previous night. As first hour wears on, I begin to wake up and become more and more engaged with what is going on around me, but I’ve already missed out on quite a bit, all because I decided to stay up until 2 a.m.
I’m not alone. Normally three or four students show up to my first hour late and tired. A recent study by showed that only eight percent of high school students get as much sleep as they need; nine hours. It’s a dilemma; do I stay up late in order to get all of my homework finished and still have time to relax, but risk ending up tired and out of it the next morning? Or do I get a good night’s rest and wake up the next morning with a pile of unfinished homework and the memory of a short uneventful evening the night before?
In my experience I almost always choose the prior. The draw of starting a new movie or wasting an hour surfing the Internet can be overpowering when the other option is going to bed, ending the day and leading right to the start of another school day.
In the past there has been a common concept that says that high school students can have a social life, get good grades or get the sleep they need, but can only achieve two out of these three. This has proven true, and I chose the grades and social life.
The same ends up being true on weekends. I will plan to catch up on my sleep over the weekend since
I don’t have homework to keep me up late or school to wake me up early, since, as says, sleep debt, like any debt, can be repaid by making up on what was missed.
Yet, this never works out either. Most weekends I end up out late with my friends on Friday and Saturday nights and don’t make up the sleep I missed during the week.
On school nights the short term fun of staying up late is often much more enticing than the long term gains of getting a full night of rest.  With a full night of sleep I am always more alert and engaged the next day, I perform better in school and am in a better mood for the first couple hours of the day.  Without it I am groggy and grumpy for the first part of the day and it takes more focus and effort to understand what is going on in school.
I should regret that I miss out on these benefits of a full night’s sleep. I should want to go to sleep at 10 p.m. each night to ensure I get enough rest. I should be willing to turn off the television, shut the laptop and drop the phone early enough to get a full eight hours. But I don’t. Getting some free time is too important to me to do homework until 9 p.m. then call it a night.
There’s just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do and get the sleep I need.  I want to hang out with friends; I want to watch an episode of Breaking Bad, I want to play some basketball or football or take my dog for a walk. To fit in all the stuff I want to do, sleep gets left out. And this is why I end up in bed around 2 a.m. each night.
Is it optimal? Definitely not, but it is manageable, at least for me. Maybe next year’s later start time will solve the problem, at least for high school students. Going into college next year, I’ll definitely try to get on a more normal schedule, but I’m not sure how successful I will be. There will be even more distractions each day living on campus than there are living at home, but it will be even more important to get needed sleep as the workload will be greater and there will be more activities I want to engage in.
But for the rest of the year I’ll still be wandering into my first hour classes well after the bell, and I won’t be the only one. We should strive to find a better balance in our sleeping patterns, and get enough sleep to perform at our fullest while leaving time for relaxation and fun.
By Sam Mitchell