Sleep deprivation is taking over West Ranch in the name of education


  Dark eyebags, messy hair, sweatshirts and sweatpants. Every teenager has those moments when they go to school as an absolute mess after pulling an all-nighter. Students are nodding off to sleep in classes, and some look like zombies until they have had a cup of coffee. It’s unusual to see students sleeping at reasonable times and being energized and refreshed in schools.

   AP Psychology and AP World History teacher Mrs. Povletich gave her opinion on this topic. 

   “I don’t know that students are any more tired during exams or finals than they are at other times,” she says. I don’t feel that academic demands are necessarily too rigorous, but I do feel that there are more outside influences on student time and finding balance is particularly challenging.”

   Most people know that sleep deprivation leads to poor health, and they may feel lousy after their body doesn’t get enough rest. Putting one’s body through too much stress and not allowing time for proper rest affects an individual physically and mentally. 

   “A lack of sleep can be detrimental to your health,” says Mrs. Povletich. “Research has shown that fatigue leads to an increased risk of accidents which can be harmful to yourself and others when you get behind the wheel of a car. Lack of sleep can also make the emotional mood swings of adolescence even more extreme and increase the likelihood of stimulant use and abuse.”

   So why would teenagers willingly stay up all night and get only a few hours of sleep? 

   Almost no teenager can say they always get a healthy amount of sleep throughout high school, where all-nighters are considered normal. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep to function properly. However, only 15 percent are reported to be sleeping for eight and a half hours.

   “I often find myself waking up and wanting to stay in my bed longer primarily because of the lack of sleep I am getting from my workload,” says Sophomore Ashley Kim. “On a good day, I would get about six to seven hours of sleep, but that still isn’t a healthy amount.” 

   Maybe students are not choosing to stay up all night. Many students can find that they are staying up because of the rigorous demands of school. Each of their classes comes with its own test schedules, workload and difficulty. 

   Students working hard to achieve their academic goals should definitely be encouraged, but when competition and health come into the equation, students may strain themselves to reach academic demands. 

   Not only do students have to get good grades in these classes, they also have to be involved in extracurriculars. Colleges look for community service hours, sports, school clubs, and the ability to play various instruments, among others. A well-rounded student has to balance everything in order to get into their dream college. 

   Sophomore and competitive swimmer Jessica Caballero spoke on this topic.     

   “Student-athletes, in my opinion, have it rough,” she explains. “We go to practice and drain ourselves out physically and mentally every day, and then we’re expected to go home and finish the load of work waiting for us.”        

   But there’s another problem. Other students and teachers know that students aren’t getting enough sleep because of school. They know students are exhausted and trying to manage their time between all their activities. They know this, but why is it considered so normal?    

   Caballero says, “Over the years the competition has just gotten greater and greater. I think that it’s completely unfair that students have to lose sleep in order to get ahead of the game.” 

   West Ranch High School can definitely be competitive, and the demands of such a competitive environment are being felt by students. As they race to get the best grades, it seems health is far behind on the list of students’ priorities. 

   Kim states, “Sleep is something [that] all humans need in order to function and be healthy, so the pressure to ‘be the best’ or ‘have the highest GPA’ should not be a reason why you show up to school with bags under your eyes.”

   Education is important. Students should be going to school and learning new things about different subjects. However, they shouldn’t have to give up something as essential to their health as sleep to “succeed” in education or get ahead of their peers.   

   The first step would be to ask why it’s so familiar to see fellow peers pulling all-nighters to study for exams. Why has lack of sleep been normalized? There may be many factors, and while academic rigor and competition is undoubtedly part of the equation, school is not entirely to blame. 

   Sports, club activities, instruments and other extracurriculars can definitely play a part in why students go to bed later. Juggling these commitments along with maintaining grades in school can lead to stress. Even with diligent time management, other extracurriculars may take up some sleep time. 

   Making a conscious decision to go to sleep earlier and to use time wisely can help improve overall health and energy in school. Prioritizing sleep over grades is a smart choice, and your body will thank you for the extra hours of rest.