February 23, 2022

Sleep: It's More Important Than You Think!

After the first 2 months of the spring semester, my first week-long break is here! This means more time to relax, unwind, and most importantly, sleep. While this post may differ from the usual content (maybe not usual, I only have 4 posts as of this moment), I felt it was an important topic to discuss. Many of my friends boast about their terrible sleep habits as if they're strong or accomplished, yet they don't know or care about the consequences of not having a healthy amount of sleep at this age. I'm not even one to speak, since I've also spent plenty of sleepless nights studying for various classes or doing assignments. However, making an effort towards a healthier sleep schedule is critical to brain development and honestly just maintaining sanity, especially when you're as young as me.

So How Bad is it?

Everybody has heard of the debate about whether high school hours should be moved to a later time, but it isn't just limited to a crumby argumentative paper topic. If you're a high school student or a teacher, take note of how many of your peers/students have bags under their eyes, yawn throughout the day, or fall asleep in class. This is because more than 66% of high school students don't regularly get enough sleep*! And it's not the students' fault that they don't get sleep; it stems from how the US education system is structured. Students are encouraged to spend outrageous amounts of time on academics or extracurriculars that it becomes practically impossible to balance their social and personal lives. Needless to say, sleeplessness has been an epidemic that plagues students, and there's no easy way to fix it nationally. That's why the best weapon to tackle the issue is education on the risks of sleep deprivation (which is quite ironic for students I must say).

Statistics around Sleep Deprivation among Middle/High Schoolers - CDC

*This statistic was taken from a 2018 report from the CDC with data taken from High School Students in 2015. The article is linked here!

Why Sleep is Important

So then the question arises: can sleep deprivation be that bad if over 66% of students are sleep deprived, and nothing is being done to fix it? The short answer is yes, but that doesn't explain the full extent of the harm. Sleep serves as the body's time to repair itself and secrete hormones, helping prepare itself for the next day. The hormones are especially important as it's the brain's way of telling the rest of the body what to do, meaning that disruption of hormones results in the disruption of the entire body in some form. This is why getting little sleep leads to a lethargic, unproductive mood; the body, in this case, didn't get the time necessary to recover and receive instructions from the brain. Less noticeable effects that develop over a longer period also include increased blood pressure, weakened immune system, increased production of fat, and increased inflammation in joints.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Different Parts of the Body - Myers/DeWall Psychology

Sleep deprivation is even worse if the deprived individual is a teen. Teens are undergoing puberty, and having interferences in hormone secretion can lead to stunted growth on top of all the other problems listed. It's also important to consider how the brain continues to develop until the age of 25, meaning that time allocated to repair neurons, strengthen neural connections, and secrete growth hormones are cut short. All can result in sleep-deprived teens having weaker, smaller, and duller bodies for the rest of their lives.

Closing Remarks

After hearing all this, most people would want to know how to avoid such a fate described above. To simply put it, you must sleep. Whether it's a power nap during the middle of the day or a restful snooze at night, getting 8-10 hours of sleep is the most optimal way to ensure your body has all the time it needs to be prepared for the next day (and even more if you're under 13). Personally, I've dedicated part of my break to improving my sleep schedule and getting the recommended hours of sleep for a person my age. That's why this post came out on Wednesday instead of Sunday! While I don't necessarily encourage putting off work till a later date, try to space out your work and be proactive so you have time for yourself.