Sleep Deprivation: A Growing Epidemic Amongst High School Students

John Seed, known as the Father, preaching to his followers. Photo Credit: Chloee Toro

By Alyssa Barrera ’17

As a student at Pritzker College Prep, there have often been instances where I’ve found myself at my limits late at night, going over the endless list of tasks I still had to complete to avoid getting a LaSalle the next day. Finishing after what felt like a decade, I would climb into bed hoping to get some rest. Instead, I, more often than not, found myself unable to sleep and in need of a distraction to avoid focusing on the stress and anxiety that overwhelmed me. The next day, sleep is the only thing on my mind, and whatever is being taught in class seems to slip right past me. That night, I’ll find myself confused on how to do homework since I was unable to focus during class; therefore, homework takes longer, and the night before seems to repeat itself. It’s an endless cycle of exhaustion, however, I’m not the only student who has ever felt this way.

Most necessary brain activities and body functions occur during sleep, making sleep one of the most important tasks we complete each day. However, many students aren’t getting sleep, and therefore, are missing out on these important brain activity and body functions. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” This lack of sleep can limit teens’ ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems; it can also lead to forgetfulness, which is extremely stressful when it comes to remembering school work or content learned.

Teenagers spend most of their time going to school, staying after for extracurricular activities, and doing homework at home; whether teenagers would like to admit to it or not, school is one of the most important aspects of their lives. The pressure to get good grades, especially at charter schools, such as Pritzker and other Noble schools, forces students to try their best to do well on any assignment thrown their way: homework, projects, essays, etc.

Whether it’s the time schools start or the amount of homework given to students each night, schools should start taking more responsibility to ensure that their students get the amount of sleep they need instead of constantly saying things like, “Stress leads to success,” or “If students take so long on homework, it’s their own fault for distracting themselves.” One major thing schools often forget to take into consideration is that we’re still teenagers, and need time to enjoy ourselves. With the constant, overwhelming workload, students rarely have time to enjoy themselves. This can lead to illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Although many studies show that the average amount of homework per night should only take students 3.5 hours total, the actual results are much different. For a teacher, who is well informed on the topic, the homework may only take an hour or less, but for a student who is struggling with the topic or the class itself, the homework can take almost 4 times as much time. This does not only lead to a lack of sleep, but can also lead to a lack of learning for students who are desperate for sleep, since they often just guess on everything to get it out of the way.

Overall, sleep deprivation has overwhelmingly negative effects on students and their performance, and should be addressed in a productive matter as soon as possible. This epidemic has become far more degraded than it should be, considering the effects it has.