Examining AJA High School Students’ Sleep Habits
Sleep is one of the most important parts of our day. It helps our bodies and minds relax and re-energize for the day ahead. It helps process memory and clears toxins from the brain. A good night’s sleep refreshes us and keeps us physically and mentally healthy.
Unfortunately, many high schoolers do not get the amount of sleep they need. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the developing minds of teenagers between 13 and 18 years old need an average of eight to ten hours of sleep every night. However, a Centers for Disease Control study found that 72% of high schoolers do not get that much sleep, and 20% of high school students report getting less than six hours of sleep on a regular basis.
At AJA, the story is no different. 80% of the students surveyed by Palette said that they felt like they did not get enough sleep. Of the 55 students who responded, 31.5% reported going to sleep between 11 o’clock and 12 o’clock on a regular basis. Another 31.5% said they went to bed between 12 o’clock and 1 o’clock. Over 90% of students reported that they woke up between six o’clock and eight o’clock. Based on this, the conclusion can be drawn that quite a few students are operating on less than eight hours of sleep.
Most students cited school and homework as the main reason they struggle with getting enough sleep. “My sleep mostly depends on the workload we have each week, so on very busy weeks I’ll get much less sleep than on weeks I don’t have as much work,” explained junior Margalit Lytton.
This lack of sleep could be the root of many problems for AJA students. Students expressed that tiredness leads to an inability to concentrate in class or absorb material for school. As junior Racheli Seeman put it, “It’s a vicious cycle. [The] teacher gives a ton of work, [and the] student stays up late to finish work. [The] student can’t focus in class because they’re tired from staying up doing work, [and now] the student has to stay up late again doing work because they weren’t able to focus on the material during class.”
Fatigue doesn’t just affect academics. In addition to causing hazards, such as sleepy student drivers, sleep deprivation can also drastically impact students’ emotional wellbeing. Many students attribute many of their bad moods, headaches, and days with the inability to function to a lack of sleep. High School Counselor Dr. Pam Mason warned, “Over time sleep deprivation can impact a teen’s mental wellbeing, increasing their risk of depression and anxiety.”
Many students are aware of the effects of sleep deprivation. When asked, Dr. Mason said that she felt that AJA has worked very hard to promote good sleep habits. She explained that not only has the topic been addressed during the Skills Lab and Advisory periods, but the school has also tried very hard to assign homework only when needed so that the workload is manageable. However, she acknowledges that AJA is not perfect, but is always working to improve in this area.
Dr. Mason also provided a number of tips on how students could improve their sleep patterns. She explained that keeping sleep times consistent is important, and keeping a schedule around when a student goes to sleep can help them. She also explained that exercise is vital to sleeping well. Additionally, she suggested “jotting down your worries” before you go to bed, so you can more easily slip into sleep. Another important recommendation is to limit screen time before bed and keep your phone off when you sleep.
Some students, after acknowledging to themselves the mental health and academic effects of sleep deprivation, have decided to take steps to try to get more sleep. Freshman Zellik Silverberg commented that he was hoping to soon implement a deadline for getting into bed.
However, many students explained that they couldn’t just fix the problem on their own. “It’s not like I like being sleep deprived, but there’s nothing I can really do about it without sacrificing school work and other facets of my day which are important to me,” explained Junior Sivan Livnat.
Without large structural changes, sleep deprivation, and its negative impact will continue to affect many high school students. Some students will continue to feel incapable of focus. Some students will continue to feel drained. Many students will continue to sleep less than they should.