Story by: Annie Oberlies, Edited by: Xavier Ribota
There is an endless cycle of teens who stay up until midnight attempting to finish homework, pushing through the fatigue and waking up early just to drift off in class. The motivation for the end of the day is to get home and sleep, to overcome the school day, and harness just enough energy to do their after school activities. When these teens arrive home they can’t go to bed early due to the homework load. This same cycle continues the rest of the week, creating the build up of stress and sleep debt/deprivation.
The recommended amount of sleep is 8 to 10 hours a night, yet two-thirds of American high school students get less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Not getting enough sleep has many effects on teens such as stress; higher rates of suicidal thoughts/actions; illnesses; acne; limited ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems; impaired cognitive ability; memory loss; aggressive behavior; eating disorders; car accidents due to drowsy driving; and substance use/abuse.
“I’m super spaced out sometimes when I am in class because I am just too tired to even focus,”says Lauren Winston,a junior at Regis Jesuit.Staying up late to finish homework has an effect on how students perform in school, because it increases the severity of the side effects as it continues continues.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2014 issued a strong policy statement saying middle and high schools in the United States should begin school no earlier than 8:30am for the health and well-being of the youth, yet many schools in Denver (including Regis) start before 8:30am, ignoring the pediatricians of America. John Oberlies, an RJ Junior explained, “I think Regis should listen to the doctors of the United States and push their school start times to at least 8:30 or probably 9.”Sleep deprivation is a problem in our community as sleep is like food for the brain and reinforces cognitive ability. Therefore, losing sleep to study into the night diminishes the long-term ability of students to truly master concepts.
“If I ever get too stressed about homework”, Winston explains, “I will do a very bad job on it and I’ll try to rush it and fall asleep without doing it and then I’ll fall asleep anxious and not be able to sleep at all.”
Many factors cause teenagers to go to bed later, including the circadian rhythm, which is the human body’s inner clock that causes teenagers to go to bed and wake up later; electronic distractions, which flashes lights and images into the brain thus tricking users that it’s daytime;
the time-consuming amount of homework, as well as after school activities.
Not to mention sending kids to school when their brains they are not awake or fully
functioning is dangerous once they get into their cars. There have been more than 10,000 car accidents this past year alone due to drowsy driving of adults and teens.
When sophomores and juniors at Regis were asked about the expectations and pressure upon the student body, they said it causes them to be stressed and that the teachers pile on a lot of homework, perhaps not considering how much academic rigor and homework is required along with extracurricular commitments. Further, other students comment that when they are unable to complete an assignment on time, teachers can be judgmental and not understanding even when the reasons for non-completion are legitimate.
When students are constantly worried about turning everything in and getting good grades, additionally all of the other commitments in life, they consequently stay up too late trying to enforce perfection, damaging their health in the long-run. “I wish I could say I receive more sleep than I prefer,” says Andy Soechtig a Sophomore at Regis, “I haven’t gotten more than maybe 6 hours in the past 5 weeks. I have been having horrible fatigue, my doctor is prescribing me to some medicine to help me fall asleep.”
From the Regis students surveyed for this article, no one gets (on average) more than 7 hours of sleep a night. When accumulated at the end of the week, this is about a night’s worth of sleep not received.
Regis students complained about how tired and stressed they are yet no one could come up with a “possible” solution to solve sleep deprivation besides getting less homework and starting school far later. What is the solution for Regis? How will we become healthier and more energized people who are attentive and focused? This is a problem that will not go away on its own unless something changes, and something has to give.