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The Cat's Eye

Students and sleep: Why it is so crucial for student success

Kelsey Smith
A student falls asleep during class, as their peers continue to work.

On a school night, a teenager in high school hangs out with their friends at the mall, they go out to get food, and then go relax at home with their friends. Suddenly as their friends leave, they realize that it’s late at night and they still have homework that’s due the next day. Now the teen stays up all night trying to complete their homework which cuts into their sleep time.

Why and how much sleep is essential for teens

Sleep research, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, shows that teens ages 13-18 should get 8-10 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

Sleep is needed because it supports mental and physical growth in teens, according to Weill Cornell Medicine. As teens are still developing, sleep benefits concentration, motivation, and memory. Not getting enough sleep can affect the mood of a person and increase the risk of low self-esteem and behavioral problems.

Since sleep affects students’ academic performance, it is crucial to get those eight hours of sleep at the very least. When lacking the necessary hours of sleep, it is easy for students to become fatigued.

“Within students, I’ve seen them sleep deprived, moody, have headaches, fall asleep in class, and not perform well because of how tired they are,” RCHS nurse Ms. Maddie Giella said. “Students will play video games at home, stare at a screen while falling asleep, and show up to school with bags under their eyes.”

In a recent poll conducted at RCHS, 108 students shared information about their sleep patterns. According to the poll, 65 out of 108 students reported they fall asleep in class. 

Students at RCHS during lunch in the quad, that provided research information for the polls on sleep.
(Kelsey Smith) students have fallen asleep in class before.

Results from the same poll also revealed that only 3.7% of students get the recommended nine hours of sleep a night on school nights. 

Surprisingly, 2.8% of the respondents reported receiving only 1-2 hours of sleep a night on school nights. 

Furthermore, 57 of the respondents said they get 5-6 hours of sleep on average during school nights. The percentage of students that get 5-6 hours of sleep on school nights was the highest at 52.8% of the students who participated in the survey.

In comparison, to the hours of sleep that students get on school days, most of the students tend to get more sleep on the weekends.

On the weekend, 44.4% of the 108 students reported they get 7-8 hours of sleep, which is the most amount of sleep that the students get on average for the weekends.

The lowest amount of sleep that the students get on the weekends is 3-4 hours of sleep, which represented 2.8% of the survey participants. 

“On school days, I’m mostly tired from all my homework, so I usually take a nap or sleep more on the weekdays and rarely take any naps on the weekends,” freshman Ellea Abellanosa said.

As teenagers who need to focus in school, getting the right amount of sleep is a huge factor because it may be difficult to retain new information when running on a couple of hours of sleep. Being able to concentrate is key to performing well and making good judgment. Lack of sleep can make it hard for people to recognize how tired they are and their level of impairment, according to Harvard Medical School.

“Getting enough sleep keeps people refreshed since you are giving your mind a break, and afterwards they’re more alert and focused,” Giella said.

Physical consequences for lack of sleep

While there are psychological effects of sleep, John Hopkins Medicine states that there are also physical effects: “Sleeping can help us prevent infections, rebuild our muscles and can even help our brains work better so that we can focus, prevent mood problems and helps our bodies function better.”

A lack of sleep can affect studying for a test, learning an instrument, getting job skills, socializing with peers, and more. Especially in teens, sleep is vital for hormone regulation, tissue recovery, and the immune system.

When a teenager needs good sleep but proceeds not to, it begins to cause bad cycles such as deciding to stay up late just once, but then doing it over until they catch themselves distressed over attempting to “catch up” on sleep.

Emotional health effects

The emotional health for teens is a strong factor in why teens need 8-10 hours of sleep. Teens have to deal with their emotions all over the place and figure out things such as balancing healthy social relationships.

When something comes in between the emotional development in a teenager, mental health issues arise and according to Sleep Foundation, when teenagers lose sleep due to these issues, sleep-deprived teens are more likely to report stress, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or acts. 

Stress disrupts the ability to sleep well and some people sleep more as a way to distract them from the stress.”

— Jodi Collins, Wellness Center advisor

Although sleep is good for the body, using sleep to escape stress or other problems isn’t the best method.

What prevents students from sleep

Many students do more than just focus on school because they have other interests. While prioritizing socializing, chores, sports, part-time jobs, playing an instrument, and so on, students also have to balance a stable school life and do their best to get good grades.

On the RCHS sleep hours poll, 89 out of 108 students said they participate in different activities after school.

The graphic shows a student that is sleeping after doing their homework and being on their phone.
(Kelsey Smith)

Besides the activities that take time away from students and their sleep, homework can affect some students’ sleep schedules if they decide to spend long hours on their work. 

The RCHS poll shows that most students spend 2-3 hours on their homework each night. While observing the chart, the second highest percentage is for the statement that they might spend only a couple minutes on their homework each night at 28.7%. 

Teenagers in the age group of 13-18 are most likely to have social media and a ginormous part of students lacking in sleep could be due to the overuse of social media that keeps them away from their work and they procrastinate.

Not only social media, but video games can take time away from students and cause them to stay up for long hours.

How to improve sleep

I always go to sleep at 10 PM and if I’m not done with my homework by that time, then I get it done during the next day. Sometimes when I’m not done during the school hours, I decide to stay after school in the library to get work done.”

— Angie Robles, sophomore

Creating a set time to go to bed, rather than having an inconsistent schedule could help students prioritize and increase sleep.

Since students run into many obstacles that prevent quality sleep, there are things that they can do to fix that. Students can decide to reduce screen time, learn stress management, fix their diet, avoid caffeine, exercise and create a bedtime routine.

An example of a bedtime routine would be eating light and healthy before bed, setting an alarm to indicate when you have to sleep, changing the room temperature to what is preferred, and turning off all devices.

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About the Contributor
Kelsey Smith
Kelsey Smith, Staff Reporter

Kelsey Smith is a freshman at RCHS, and this is her first year in journalism. Smith is very interested in writing arts and thoroughly enjoys the stories she creates. She is looking forward to her freshman year spent meeting new people and writing stories for The Cat’s Eye. Outside of school, Smith loves to listen to music, watch TV, play sports, video games, travel, and hang out with friends. 

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