Students at Calvert High School continuously struggle to focus and complete assignments while constantly being reprimanded for cell phones in class when the real problem is much broader and more dangerous. Exhaustion is an epidemic that is spreading through schools today and is constantly impacting performance in the classroom.
The number of hours teens sleep is only decreasing, and many are awoken in the mornings to begin their day long before their minds and bodies are ready. Most students do not even reach their most productive sleep, leaving their bodies deprived from the recharge they require. This can have many negative effects on student learning.
In the 2015 Stanford Medicine Article “Among Teens, Sleep Deprivation is an Epedemic,” the results of a 2006 National Sleep Foundation Poll are shared. A survey of teen sleep concluded more than 87% of high school students in the United States get far less than the recommended 10 hours of sleep.
According to Stanford Medicine, lack of sleep affects the ability to concentrate, recall information, problem solve, think clearly and motivate oneself. When suffering from exhaustion, it is difficult for students to perform to their best ability. When their sleep is restricted to three to six hours each night, teens will progressively become more tired throughout the week.
Technology has collided with students’ already unhealthy sleep schedule. Following anywhere between one hour to five hours of homework, students turn to their devices to relieve stress by watching YouTube videos or talking to friends. When devices are used during evening hours, the light from a device sends a message to the brain saying, “Wake Up!” making it harder to fall asleep after disconnecting. The best way to fight this is to find relaxing activities to complete after working such as reading. The key is to turn cell phones off at least fifteen minutes before sleep.
Many students participate in extracurricular activities, Advanced Placement classes, community service, part time jobs while also receiving pressure from peers, parents and teachers to succeed. These pressures put a lot of stress on students. Without a stable, consistent amount of sleep, a student might not be able to hold the weight of all this pressure. According to the study, this combination is the cause of some cases of teenage depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide.
After a nine-hour day, generally beginning at 5:00 am, students leave school to be sent home with more homework or stay after school for another three hours for extracurriculars.
High School students begin their day at an early hour, so their brain pushes them to stay awake and alert throughout the day. This push carries throughout the day until, finally, the body becomes the its most awake in the evening, making it harder for them to fall asleep.
Some teens attempt to “catch up” on their sleep over the weekends, but staying up late and sleeping through the morning hours on weekends throws off any developed sleep schedule and can discombobulate the body’s natural clock. The body’s natural clock is intended to ensure the body is working at the same time and remains connected. When the clock does not stay in a consistent pattern the body is disconnected.
To combat this problem, students can take action to ensure they get the maximum amount of sleep. Completing as much homework as possible during the hour lunch, study hall, or free class periods can lessen the workload as efficiently as possible. Utilizing study hall time given by athletic coaches is also a good way to minimize the amount of late-night homework during sports seasons.
Putting away electronic devices also combats insomnia. Putting devices away fifteen minutes before sleep can help the mind shut down, so a longer, more refreshing sleep is achieved.
Developing a sleep schedule, or routine, will also help the body combat exhaustion and help sleep do more for your body. When the body falls into a routine, it is easier for it to shut down and reach a more productive sleep.
Exhaustion is detrimental to student learning, as well as their mental health. In order to combat exhaustion, students must have a healthy sleep routine and take control of their health.