By Sara Fraser
The start of school never fails to incite worries about sleepless nights and the effects of screen time. You may tend to blame your lack of sleep on schoolwork, but consider what other things you are doing that contribute to your tiredness every morning.
No teenager enjoys hearing the buzzing (or maybe marimba) of her iPhone as the alarm sounds calling for her to wake up. No one loves hitting the snooze button for that extra nine minutes of sleep that never feels like more than three seconds. Yet, if we all dread waking up, then why do we spend hours every night sacrificing our precious sleeping time?
Teenagers, and some would argue St. Mary’s girls especially, are notorious for not getting enough sleep. Teens are supposed to get about 8-10 hours of sleep a night, but only 15% are said to actually meet this recommendation.
Kiki Whartenby (11) admits to usually getting around “five hours of sleep a night, if [she’s] lucky.” Helen Hudson (10) says that she usually gets seven hours of sleep a night, more than most, but she still experiences trouble forcing herself to wake up in the mornings.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, irregular and inadequate sleep patterns affect well-being, impact focus in school, increase acne, and cause irritability and fatigue.
It is easy, and certainly mostly common, to blame this lack of sleep on our, at times overwhelming, amount of homework. Lily Smith (11) says that larger assignments or upcoming tests often cause her to abandon her typically normal sleep schedule in favor of a much later bedtime, and in theory a better grade. Her dilemma is not uncommon: it is often difficult to reach a point where a student feels like sleeping will help her body and mind more than studying.
However, not many people choose to consider the actions they could take personally to get more sleep. Although we accuse our workload of being the main culprit behind our sleep deprivation, many of us fail to prioritize our work when we have the chance.
It is easy to come home after a long day of school or an exhausting sports practice and immediately lie down and hop on our phones. In moderation, social media and Netflix are normal, relaxing, and easy ways to de-stress. But, whether we admit it or not, we can all fall victim to that dark hole that is the Internet.
Too often, what starts out as a quick glance at Instagram turns into a 45 minute deep dive, without our even realizing. Later in the night, when we find ourselves facing hours of work, we hardly remember the minutes, or even hours, we spent online before getting started on homework.
The key, however, is to recognize this self-destructive habit and to attempt to use technology and social media in moderation only. In other words, we should cap our daily use before it begins to impact our sleep.
As science and society begin to understand the immense effects of sleep, schools are also following suit. Many schools have implemented programs that educate teens on the importance of a good night's sleep. Some schools, like the McCallie School in Chattanooga, are even pushing back start times, and, as a result, seeing a drop in failing grades and the number of students suspended for disciplinary reasons.
If you feel sleep deprived, I propose an experiment: utilize your free periods and plan out your homework at the beginning of the week. Additionally, put your phone away 30 minutes before you get into bed and do not look at it until you wake up the next morning. Then, start by getting 10 or 20 more minutes of sleep every school night, and see if you feel any less tired the next day.
Ultimately, you are the only one who is in control of the amount of sleep you get, and you owe it to yourself to aim for those nine hours - no matter how crazy that might sound right now.