Sleep deprivation is the real monster under the bed

Teenagers are not getting the necessary amount of sleep that they need and this can have huge consequences.


by Ella Norton, Writer

“Teenagers needs 10 hours of sleep,” is something I’ve heard my parents say to me so many times that it feels drilled into my head. However, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, they’re right as teenagers do need about nine hours of sleep a night. However, if you were to ask me when the last time I got nine hours of sleep was, I would laugh.

Between academics, extracurriculars and jobs, most teenagers are not getting as much sleep as they need and as a society, we need to find a way to fix it.

Sleep deprivation can have huge health impacts, long-term as well as short-term. According to the National Sleep Foundation, lack of sleep limits your ability to learn, causes acne, mood swings and overeating. Harvard Medical School says that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, mood disorders and even in some cases, lower your life expectancy.

And yet even with all of these health concerns, academic as well as other pressures can cause some adolescents to be sleep deprived. Even when asking my World History class of sophomores, I had girls saying they got three to five hours a night. For many of them, eight is considered a rarity.  

On an average night, I have anywhere between three to five hours of homework. In a perfect universe, I would come home, start my homework immediately and be done by 8 o’clock. As great as that would seem, that’s not realistic.

When I get home, I don’t start my homework immediately and I do take breaks in between as I am a teenager who gets distracted very easily. After all, I also have to eat at some point, do chores, spend time with my family and work. With all of this included, my homework definitely does not get finished by 8 o’clock and if it does, it’s a rare occasion. I generally end up going to sleep at midnight and then having to wake up at 6 a.m. the next day.  On average I get six hours of sleep a night.

When I did swim team last year, I was sleeping even less as I would get home even later and already be exhausted. I would stay up even later to finish assignments that had to be done. It’s because of this that between academics, social life (including extracurriculars and sports) and sleep, teenagers feel like they can have two at the maximum. Generally, teenagers choose to focus on academics and social life, with sleep getting ignored.

A potential solution to this problem is to change the education system so that students get less homework. Schools in Finland have stopped assigning homework and according to the OECD global ranking, they’re still ranked sixth showing that eliminating the amount of homework can still provide adolescents with a good education. This would stop teenagers from having to stay up late finishing assignments, as well as reducing their stress levels, which can cause teenagers trouble sleeping.

Another possibility is to have school start later. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it’s necessary to have schools start later as the teenage brain is biologically wired to need to sleep in later and it would allow teenagers to get the 9 to 10 hours that they need. The common argument against that is that it prepares teenagers for the real world, yet the cliche is a 9-5 job which is later than most schools start anyway.

Something has to shift soon so that teenagers are able to get the 10 hours of sleep they need every night so that they remain healthy and don’t face serious medical concerns. With the amount of homework I have and the early school start time, even without my struggles sleeping, I’m still never able to get the amount of sleep that I need.