I wake up at 5:50 a.m. every day, my alarm clock never fails to go off, and likewise, my hand never fails to reach for the snooze button in pursuit of those extra nine minutes of precious sleep. This routine, the only regularity of my sleep schedule, continues on a cycle regardless of the everchanging nature of my life. Whether I’m crawling into bed at 10 p.m., or crashing on the couch at 3 a.m., I’m always up at 5:50, ready to start the day.
But, I wasn’t always like this. What started out as ten hours of sleep, fell to eight. Then one all-nighter led to another, and soon a 3 a.m. bedtime became the norm.
Pediatricians widely recommend that high school students get around eight to nine hours of sleep per night in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yet, in practice, many teenagers, including myself, find difficulty in reaching even half of that. Between school, work, extracurriculars, and a personal life, it becomes increasingly harder to make time for sleep, one of our most fundamental necessities.
The struggle to find sleep is especially prevalent in the upper decile ranks, in which students are encouraged to do as much as possible in order to remain competitive among their peers. To these students, sacrificing a few hours of sleep to take on one more AP class, join one more club, or enter one more competition, is a minor compromise to make if it can ensure their future success. What seems like only a temporary inconvenience is a small price to pay for the guarantee of a seemingly better life.
Recent studies suggest later start times in schools, but frankly, this would provide and inefficient solution. Pushing school off one or two hours in the morning may temporarily ease students’ sleep schedules, but in the long run, how effective will its reparations be? Students will simply adjust to this new time frame, shifting their current sleep schedules by a few hours.
Sleep deprivation is a normal part of high school culture. Efforts may be made to combat it, but with the competitive system still in place, students will continue to sacrifice their sleep in order to stay on top of their class. The overwhelming pressure to succeed not only has psychological consequences, but pushes students to make decisions that affect their physical health as well.
While finishing that last minute lab report may seem like the most important thing, it is also crucial to remember that your health is the most important thing. If you don’t take care of yourself now, you’ll have less years in your life to enjoy the greatness that all of your hard work will bring.