Going to sleep between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m., and waking up early for school can be difficult. It is especially rough when one has to get out of bed for swim practice in the cold, dark morning.
“I get about five hours of sleep a night since I’m up late doing homework, and then I have morning practice,” said Alexa Markl, a senior at Notre Dame Preparatory. “I normally go to sleep between 11 and 11:30 p.m. at night, and I get up at 4:30 a.m. for practice.”
Markl swims for Scottsdale Aquatic Club, and has two practices per day, adding up to approximately four hours daily. She takes three Advanced Placement (AP) and honors classes, and has approximately three to four hours of homework each night. This busy schedule makes it difficult for her to get the proper amount of sleep each night.
Lack of sleep has become more prevalent, and high school students are mainly those being affected. The busy schedules of teenagers play a significant role in sleep deprivation. It can be difficult to fit everything in to a 24-hour day. Eight hours of school, extracurricular activities, social lives, and homework can affect the amount of sleep teens are getting.
Effects of sleep deprivation
Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night in order to perform at their best, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, this is not the case with most high school students. In a November 2017 poll sent to 313 NDP students, 165 of them responded. Of those, only 18.8 percent of students estimated that they met these requirements on school nights. Only three percent of NDP students reported getting nine hours of sleep or more on school nights.
Dr. Wendy D. Kaye, a pediatrician in Scottsdale, stated, “Their brains are very active all day long. They need time to rest. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it will affect your ability to focus. It can affect your moods, and just your general overall health.”
If teens do not get a healthy amount of sleep, it can affect their grades and ability to concentrate in the classroom. When one is constantly not getting enough sleep, it can become reoccurring.
Dr. Kaye said, “It becomes a habit. Your body gets so used to sleeping five, six hours a night, and you are in a bad cycle.”
It is challenging to get off of this cycle, which makes it difficult to obtain eight hours of sleep each night.
Tori Olivo, a senior at NDP, has experienced this bad cycle of sleep. Last year, she went to bed between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. on an average school night and often woke up at 4 a.m. to finish incomplete homework from the night before.
“Once you go so long without sleeping, your body kind of adjusts,” said Olivo. “But I do still have to get my occasional nap in to keep up with my lack of sleep.”
Many aspects of teens’ lives can be affected by sleep deprivation, including mood, behavior, cognitive ability, and academic performance. They become more irritable, less patient, more inclined to partake in risk-taking behavior, and they have a difficult time concentrating in the classroom.
“I find myself falling asleep in class, and it’s harder to do well on my work when it is late,” said Jarod Bogsinske, a sophomore at NDP.
Bogsinske is enrolled in six honors and Advanced Placement classes, and typically has three to four hours of homework each night. He is also on the NDP swim team and practices one to two hours per day. He claimed that it is challenging to balance everything and finds himself sleeping between six to eight hours a night; however, his sleep schedule varies each night.
In addition, driving and a lack of sleep are a combination that do not mix well together.
“I ran through one red light, and almost another one, while I was coming home from soccer because I was tired,” said Luciana Garcia Riefkohl, a NDP senior. “I am surprised I did not crash.”
More than 100,000 car crashes each year are caused by drowsy driving. Teenagers are most susceptible to falling asleep at the wheel due to a lack of sleep.
According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “Teenagers are at the highest risk for falling asleep at the wheel. Drowsy driving is the most likely to occurs in the middle of the night (2 a.m. to 4 a.m.), but also in mid-afternoon (3 p.m. to 4 p.m.).”
Sleep deprivation and drinking alcohol both have similar effects. If one is awake for 18 hours in a row, it is equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of .05. Similarly, driving after being awake for a full day is equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .10. To put that into perspective, .08 is considered drunk. Reaction time and attention span are both decreased while driving with little sleep.
Biological sleep patterns and circadian rhythms
Biological sleep patterns are different in babies, children, teenagers, and adults, according to Dr. Kaye. During puberty, there is a change in the body, which affects how one sleeps. This causes circadian rhythms to shift approximately two hours later. A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that makes the body alert or fatigued throughout the day.
The “sleep phase delay” is when teenagers experience a shift in their circadian rhythms. Instead of going to bed between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., generally, teenagers go to sleep between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.. This is why adolescents are more tired during the day, rather than at night. Early school times make it difficult for students to get at least eight hours of sleep, especially when their internal clocks do not make them tired until late at night.
Furthermore, teenagers have an irregular sleep schedule throughout the week. On school nights, most students stay up late and wake up early. Times in which students go to sleep may vary on school nights, due to the amount of homework assigned or extracurricular activities. However, on the weekends, they mostly stay up late, as well as sleep in late.
“When I have a lot of homework and soccer practice, I normally have to stay up later, compared to when I have less homework or do not have practice,” stated Garcia Riefkohl.
According to the article “Sleep and Teens,” from the University of California Los Angeles Health website, “They think that sleeping in much later on the weekend will help them catch up. This only throws their body clocks off even more. It will be even harder for them to fall asleep and wake up on time when the new school week begins.”
It is important for teens to get a consistent amount of sleep each night. If not, it is only hurting them even more. Many high schoolers use the weekend for sleeping in so they can catch up on their sleep.
“I always look forward to the weekends so I can sleep in,” said Garcia Riefkohl.
Once many students lie down in bed, they go on their phones or other devices until they feel tired. Additionally, with new technology, many class assignments are completed on electronic devices.
Markl stated, “I rarely go on my phone at night, but if I do, it’s only for about 15 to 20 minutes a night. However, most of my homework is on my iPad, and I normally have to stay up late to finish it.”
Blue light is emitted from electronic devices. When this light meets receptors in the human eye, signals are sent to the brain, and one feels less tired, according to Child Mind Institute.
In an interview between Juliann Garey and Dr. Max Van Gilder, a Manhattan-based pediatrician, in the article, “Why Are Teenagers So Sleep-Deprived?” from the Child Mind Institute website, Dr. Van Gilder stated, “those receptors send a signal to the brain which suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps kids from feeling tired. And adolescents are low on melatonin and start producing it later to begin with.”
Since most homework at NDP is now on devices, completing it late at night can make it even more difficult to fall asleep afterward, due to the blue light emitted from devices.
Balancing homework, extracurricular activities, work, and sleep can be a difficult task. This is a struggle many NDP students have to take on.
Olivo works at Chick-fil-A for approximately 15 plus hours each week. She led Kairos 20, which requires 60 plus hours of planning and preparation. Moreover, she is on the NDP girl’s lacrosse team. On the nights she works, she gets home between 11 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. and still has to begin her homework if she had an after school activity.
Olivo stated, “Last year, my grades dropped because my sleep became like non-existent, so I would stay up until midnight working on homework, and then I would have to wake up at 4 a.m. to go finish my homework.”
Although she struggled last year, Olivo figured out how to balance everything.
“This year, I finally figured out that balance of working less, but still being involved in school, getting my service hours done, and getting around five or six hours of sleep a night,” said Olivo.
Figuring out how to balance everything can be difficult. It can be tough to decide which activity to drop if one is faced with too little time to accomplish each task.
Adelina Martins, a junior at NDP, stated, “It is hard to balance everything. That is partially why I am thinking about quitting sports. Because, even though I love sports, I just genuinely do not have the time to be committed to my team, go to practices and all the games and events, and still have good grades.”
Martins is in two AP classes and one honors class. For her, it is difficult to finish her assignments quickly. It takes her roughly 30 to 40 minutes to complete one assignment, and if it is a writing assignment, even longer. This adds up to at least a couple hours of homework each night for her. Martins feels compelled to complete many assignments during break and lunch time because she simply does not have enough time.
Solutions and tips
There are many ways people can assure they improve their sleep and prevent sleep deprivation. It is important to wake up and go to sleep at approximately the same time each night. This includes on the weekends too. Taking a quick nap in the afternoon can also be beneficial.
Dr. Kaye advised, “No phone use two hours before you go to bed. No caffeine, so that is iced tea, and, of course, coffee and chocolate. Not eating too much before you are trying to go to bed.”
While driving, if one notices that he or she is yawning constantly, has heavy eyelids, or cannot remember the last distance just driven, he or she should either pull off to the side of the road and take a quick nap, or buy a caffeinated beverage. If a passenger is in the car, they should switch positions.
Phillip Hemmo, a guitar teacher at NDP, said, “With all of your responsibilities, and all of the things that you guys have to do everyday, it is so important that you make sure you have enough time to listen to music, take it easy, and rest. Other wise, you cannot be at your best.”