The Effects of Sleep Loss on Students

Zach Sevart, Staff Writer

One of the biggest challenges faced by the majority of grade school students is trying to wake up early for school after a terrible night of sleep. Although it is easy for us to dismiss a couple bad nights of sleep during the week, poor sleep habits can have negative long-lasting effects that cause problems later on in life. Whether it be staying up late to get in some last second studying for a test the next day, or watching videos on your phone, there are plenty of reasons for students not getting enough sleep. This can have a detrimental effect on students throughout the day.

The most important thing to know is what sleep loss can cause for students who get less than the recommended amount of sleep every night. University of Michigan Health states, “Poor sleep negatively affects teens’ ability to concentrate and perform well at school.” Another negative effect is how much one night of lost sleep can impact a student’s sleep schedule. University of Michigan Health states, “Sleeping in hours later than normal on the weekends and during school breaks makes it even more difficult to switch back — and can lead to more tiredness and grogginess.” A statistic that highlights the problem with sleep is that there is only a small percentage of students actually getting enough sleep. WebMD states, “The average is under seven and a half hours, with only 15 percent sleeping eight and a half hours or more on school nights and more than 25 percent typically sleeping six and a half hours or less.” With that being said, what are the reasons for sleep loss being so common amongst teens?

After being presented with many common variables that affect sleep, IHS students responded with what they thought had the most influence on them and how it has affected them at school. When asked about how sleep loss affected her, senior Avery Morton states, “I feel like my throat is sore, I feel sick, I get headaches, I have low energy, and I’m just tired in general. After a night of bad sleep I feel very bad. I feel very tired and I just want to sleep, and it takes so much energy to get through school.” These symptoms are some of the most common that students with sleep loss will experience. Junior Halle Losey adds, “It becomes harder to focus the next day in school which results in feeling like I’m behind which creates more stress for me.” It is also common for students to have trouble falling asleep right when they want to, so they try to distract themselves or make themselves tired. Freshman Will Hawk says, “I mainly just go on my phone and that makes me tired,” but electronics usage before going to sleep actually makes it harder to fall asleep.

With all of these distractions that can affect a teenager’s sleep, there are an equal number of ways to improve sleep quality. The easiest way for anyone to develop better sleep habits is to get to bed a little bit earlier. Verywell Health states that “perhaps the most important thing you can do is to recognize how important sleep is to your health…It is tempting to stay up late or sleep in, but just as in adults, it is important to get a regular sleep schedule. By getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends, we condition our body to know when to sleep.” Another reason that is often overlooked is caffeine consumption. Regarding the frequency of caffeine consumption, Losey states, “Almost every day, I either drink coffee or energy drinks because that’s what is most convenient.” A big problem for most students is to try avoiding procrastination on school work. Deciding to finish something later will cut into your sleep schedule by either causing you to stay up later to finish work, wake up earlier to finish work, or to fall behind on school work. It is normal for students to want to spend time off from their work, like sophomore Shane Soo who states, “My current school workload is overwhelming. I take school seriously, I push to get As. However, my work schedule is pretty sloppy.” Even though it is tempting to take a break when school is over, your brain will be more focused right after school rather than later on in the day, so doing school work right away is easier and prevents procrastination. Phones are another big issue with sleep loss. SCLHealth says,”The blue light emitted by your cell phone screens restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. This makes it even more difficult to fall asleep and wake up the next day.”

One of the most important things to take away from this is how negative poor sleep habits can be for a person physically and mentally. Although these problems and their solutions will not apply to everyone or fix the issue instantly, they are a great first step in improving sleep habits and the mental health of students who deal with these issues.