The importance of sleep

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Bleary eyes, travel coffee mugs in hand and students zombie-walking through hallways – all characteristics of a typical morning at AHS. The cause? Lack of sleep. We all see this – or experience it – every day, yet we think nothing of it. Instead of being a temporary situation, being tired is a perpetual state of being for many students.

Doctors of all disciplines have stressed the importance of nocturnal rest, recommending high school students get an average of nine hours of sleep each day. Despite the medical warnings, students continue to get much less than the doctor-recommended amount of sleep as they progress through the education system.

Accordingly, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) has declared lack of sleep a “public health epidemic”. According to the CDC’s release, “with sleep insufficiency linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.Unintentionally falling asleep, nodding off while driving, and having difficulty performing daily tasks because of sleepiness all may contribute to these hazardous outcomes.” Of the over 100 million American adults over the age of 20 years old surveyed by the CDC, 22.3 percent admit that they’ve seen the most difficulty with concentrating on things.

As teenagers in school – especially during junior and senior years, arguably the most important two years of high school – being able to concentrate is a necessary skill to succeed in K-12 education. The ability to focus often makes the difference between good grades and bad grades, and a transcript is the backbone of any student’s college application.

Not only that, the agency has also seen that people with consistent sleep deprivation are more likely to succumb to ‘chronic’ diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and depression. In 2009, the Telegraph reported that studies had been published that linked chronic sleep deprivation was linked to the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

No matter how much research is published, students just don’t seem to understand the health risks the lack of sleep presents. How much is it going to take for people to realize that sleep deprivation is a serious problem?

Sleeping past midnight is now worn as a badge of honor rather than recognized as the health-endangering event that it truly is. At AHS, school begins at 7:20 a.m, meaning the vast majority of students wake up around 6 a.m, resulting in 6 hours or less of sleep. Not only does it make it much harder for students to focus on their schoolwork and put them at risk of developing more serious diseases, drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel has caused over 100,000 car crashes during the past year, according to the Sleep Foundation. That presents an additional hazard that could put teen drivers at risk.

It might be that many consider operating on a small amount of sleep and a high amount of caffeine is a mark of student endurance, but it’s a reckless one at that. The sad part is, since the effects of sleep deprivation aren’t immediately seen, people discount it as a serious problem.

20 years down the road we’ll see the effects of countless sleepless nights manifested in serious illnesses, but for now we stay up past midnight, get five hours of sleep, load up on caffeine in the morning and repeat. We shouldn’t have to wait until a tragedy occurs to see that sleeping is a necessary part of living that we can’t neglect.