The Sleep Patterns Of Students

The effects sleep deprivation can have on the teenage mind

Student Naps.

Photo credit: Eden Stranahan

Student Naps.

“I have to drink a lot of coffee to get through my classes,” junior Caroline Polsky said, explaining that she drinks two to three cups per day. This isn’t just the case for her, as the sight of a Parker upper schooler sipping from a cup of coffee isn’t an uncommon one. Along with its flavor, coffee is widely consumed for the benefits of caffeine, a chemical that can temporarily relieve symptoms of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation  has been referred to as a “public health crisis” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the CDC website, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that teenagers ages 13-18 need eight to ten hours of sleep every 24 hours. However, it is evident that many Parker upper schoolers are not meeting this recommendation. A survey of all Parker upper school students asked how many hours they sleep per night. Of the 112 respondents 73.3% stated they  sleep less than eight hours per night. This data is consistent with the results of a 2018 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics which found that “73% of high school students across 30 states are not getting enough sleep.”

Sophomore Lola Yee expressed how at the end of an eight hour school day and sports practice, she has four hours of homework to do.  This amounts  to twelve hours of work per day. “And then I still want to have time to do projects of my own, so it causes me to stay up late every night of the week,” Yee said. Polsky has a similarly busy schedule which results in her going to bed past midnight.

According to upper school counselor Gary Childrey, students may stay up late for multiple reasons. These include high academic demands, distractions, anxiety, and consumption of caffeine. “[Some students] have all this time that they’re not using very effectively and then they stay up late to catch up with their work.”

Melatonin is a hormone that makes people feel drowsy and sleepy, and for teenagers, this hormone is released later than for adults. According to Childrey, “If you’re a senior or a junior and you want to go to bed at 10:00 to 11:00, you get in bed and you can’t fall asleep. He added that this delayed release of melatonin can lead to a lack of sleep. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can cause a person to feel less than optimal the next day. “Your concentration, attention, focus is not as good if you don’t get enough sleep,” Childrey said. Polsky feels “terrible” the next day if she doesn’t get enough sleep, and Yee has become accustomed to going about her day to day life on minimal sleep. “It’s just annoying,” she said. 

Childrey recommends trying to get homework done earlier in the evening in order to go to bed earlier. “[Students] want to really do well in school and they study maybe more than they have to,” Childrey said. He believes that sleep is also a factor in doing well in school as it enhances one’s performance. During her freshman and sophomore year, Polsky implemented a strict bedtime of 10:30. “I felt amazing. I was very productive,” Polsky said.