I went to sleep at the…zzz
Author by Shruti Patel
When initially brain-storming for this article, I started with ideas about fitness and eating well. I then came across an epidemic that deserves to be acknowledged: sleep deprivation. In this context, an epidemic is simply a factor that affects many people in a population; specifically, I am looking at the teen student population. Many other students can relate to this problem. Not only do we have schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and more, but we also distract ourselves with social networking and technology. In this millennium, we really do have too much to do and too little time to do it. Sleep deprivation is a commonly seen condition in high school students; it is visible
through such symptoms as bags under eyes, dark circles, sleeping in class, and irritability. Sleep deprivation can have many poor physiological outcomes – a long sustained time without sleep can even lead to death. Although we rarely see that consequence, we cause damage to our bodies when we don’t sleep. The efficiency of our brains decreases, and we sometimes use different parts of our brains to compensate for the lack of functionality in the areas we actually need to use for specific tasks. In addition, sleep deprivation stunts growth (which explains my 5’0 height). Another side affect is attention deficit — this is particularly dreadful for students, as good attention is crucial to the learning process.
Teens are advised to sleep for eight to nine hours per night. The teenage years are a time for growth and development and the sleep pattern often adjusts, causing us to naturally fall asleep later. This combined with waking up early for school results in a decreased amount of sleep each night. For students who participate in clubs, sports, or jobs, time and sleep become even more valuable. Many students who take on these extracurricular activities get home later and have to manage their time more efficiently to get to sleep on time…or enough sleep to get through the next day. Homework, social networking, and technology also take up a lot of our time. Students, especially those with rigorous schedules, face piles of homework, projects, studying, reading, and papers for up to seven classes each night. If having to get through this was not enough, there are frequently distractions that prevent us from getting our work done. Talking to friends on Facebook, texting about weekend plans, playing videogames, and catching up on our favorite television shows are all just a click away. Throwing distractions into the mix adds on to the time we take to finish a satisfactory amount of work before heading to sleep.
To combat sleep deprivation and stay well, we must learn good sleeping habits. First, we need to know how much sleep it is that we should get. An eight-hour minimum can have us running at optimal level. Sleep should be a priority, as it keeps us happy and healthy. In addition, our bodies respond accordingly to light and dark. As it gets later, we should turn off bright lights and electronics, a signal to our body that is it time to shut down for the night. Similarly, we should reserve energetic or distracting activities, such as exercising or watching TV, for earlier in the day, sticking to calming or sleep-inducing activities, such as reading, for the nighttime. It is also helpful to initiate a routine, whether it be taking a shower before bed or having an established wake up time and bedtime. Finally, caffeine and vitamins are not a replacement for sleep. Sleep is necessary for the body and for our well being, so we should allow ourselves enough time to do so.
It can clearly be seen that sleep deprivation results in nothing beneficial. As this is a prominent condition in high school students, it should be something that is recognized and corrected. A proper amount of sleep each night is good for the mind and the body, and just by acquiring a few new good habits, we can find ourselves better off in the end. Finally, the instant we do close our eyes, we drift off into a dreamland, sleeping soundly… zzz.
Shruti Patel is a self-proclaimed “nerd,” and she walks the hallways of the Wheeler High School Center of Advanced Studies. During the summer, she volunteers at the Gujarati Cultural Association of North America (GCANA) Summer Camp, where she shares her culture and religion with kids. She has a great passion for the arts, music and dance, as well as reading and writing.