The nightmare of sleep deprivation

The night before a big test, teachers always tell their students to have a good breakfast in the morning and get a good night’s sleep. People of all ages are sleeping less and less and as they get older, they need more sleep in order for their body to get the nourishment and be recharged it needs to stay attentive daily.

            The week of April 15-19, New Trier is having a wellness week put on by the Kinetic Wellness department. Sleep may not come to mind at first, but it can’t be overlooked. In a survey done by 100 students at New Trier, 80% of students get an average of six to eight hours of sleep on school nights. As we get older, the body can rely on less sleep to function, but the more sleep, the better. According to WebMD, teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep per night to concentrate throughout the day. Sleep deprivation can cause a loss in memory, depression, a weaker immune system and an increase in pain perception.

            A lot of people don’t know that by the time they yawn, they are already too tired and need to go to bed. Drowsiness is the last step before falling asleep and caffeine or other stimulants don’t help much if someone is already at that point. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conduct studies to better learn the affects that sleep deprivation has on people. Driver fatigue is responsible for 56,000 car accidents a year and over 1,500 deaths.

            In order for teenagers to get an average of nine hours every night, that would mean they would have to go to be between nine and ten depending on when they wake up. For a lot of students, that isn’t realistic. They have sports or clubs or jobs after school and still need to make time to do their homework and have dinner.

            New Trier starts at 8:15 at the Winnetka Campus and at 7:55 at Northfield. A lot of schools in Illinois start a lot earlier than New Trier though. Metea Valley High School in Aurora starts at 7:25 so the students there have to wake up around 5:30 to get to school on time. They also don’t have an advisory so they don’t sleep in as much as the students at New Trier do. Highland Park High School starts at 8:00. Batavia High School starts at 7:35 and at Glenbrook South, they start at 8:00.

            Junior Shaye Haggerty goes to bed between 11-1 every day and wakes up around 6:15. “I think if school started later, people could go to bed a little later because they can wake up later. They could even go to sleep at the same time as they do now and just wake up later; therefore, they would have slept longer and be more attentive during their morning classes.”

            New Trier already starts later than most schools. Our early bird classes start when a lot of schools have first period and people still want the day to start later. An issue with this is after school activities. In the winter when the sun sets around 4:30, having sports that start around then and end at 6:30 or 7:00 is just too late. Sports also have morning practices that start around 6:00 so those students have to wake up even earlier to go to those as well.

            Even on the weekends, teenagers don’t make up for the lack of sleep during the week. In the same survey, 70% of students go to bed after midnight. Since teenagers are night owls, staying up late isn’t an issue; it’s the fact that they have to wake up early the next morning. People also get into a cycle of staying up late and then not being able to fall asleep on the earlier side; that’s why coming back from long breaks are hard for a lot of people.

            “Sometimes I save my homework for school the next day and do it during my free periods so I can get to bed earlier” said junior Kaitlin Shoewe. “If I have skating in the morning, I go to bed around 10:00 and wake up at 6:00. If I don’t, I still go to bed between 10:00 and 10:30 but I wake up at 7:00.”

            The lack of sleep that teenagers are getting is starting to add up. Yes, they don’t need as much sleep as a young child, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to them. Teenagers are too old for their parents to tell them that it’s time for bed. They will go to bed when they are tired and want to. There may not be a solution to the problem of sleep deprivation, but having people aware of the consequences is the first step to people going to bed earlier.