Students are not getting enough sleep. Why not and how do we solve this?
BY RYAN CHO ’25 AND MATTHEW DORON ’23
Sleep, like water and oxygen, is necessary to sustain human life. Humans need the time to recover both their physical and mental health.
Without sufficient amounts of sleep, humans are unable to function at full capacity, and students are no exception. However, in the age of technology and high academic standards, are students getting enough sleep?
“I don’t think so, because if you look at what doctors suggest, it’s eight to ten hours of sleep as a teen as you’re growing,” UAHS counselor Heather Peebles said. “Talking about how important it is for your brain development, your mental health, your physical health as well, I feel like the nature of the piece is that you can’t get that level of sleep.”
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend teenagers aged 13 to 18 get eight to ten hours of sleep each night, Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Sleep Disorder Center reported that most teenagers only get approximately seven hours of sleep or less, each night.
While sleep habits are unique to each individual, there are several pervasive factors that can contribute to a student’s lack of sleep. Some factors, such as stress, schoolwork and exams, are external factors while others, specifically the use of phones and social media and the implementation of a healthy routine, can be directly controlled by students.
One of the largest factors that cause students to have unhealthy sleep schedules is access and use of phones. Peebles, who helps with students’ socio-emotional health, said she believes the accessibility of phones is a leading factor in students’ lack of sleep.
“I feel like a lot of Upper Arlington kids are sleeping with their phones right beside their pillow or their bed, and accessible to ding from a message from their friends,” she said. “It’s hard to get to the place where you’re sleeping and taking care of yourself.” Social media can also result in students losing sleep, as well as potentially causing poor sleep quality.
“There’s a time suck, there are those that are naive and lie in bed and they think it’s ten o’clock and it’s 12:30,” Peebles said.
One strategy to avoid losing sleep to phone use is placing the phone on a separate table or room where it will not be easily accessible.
Phone usage is not the only reason students struggle to get eight to ten hours of sleep each night; time management, especially concerning homework, can be a difficult skill to attain, and sleep deprivation can be a painful reminder of that. This is something sophomore Danny Ben-Artzi has experienced.
“I would look at how much homework I got during the day, and put it off until whenever I needed to be in bed by [1 AM], and then I’d come to school and repeat it all the time,” Ben-Artzi said. “So by the end of the week, I was so fatigued that I was actually falling asleep in class.”
Ben-Artzi said his sleep deprivation worsened when he began his sophomore year, making him reliant on caffeine.
“I had to drink a Mountain Dew every day because I didn’t have time to make coffee. So I’d grab a Mountain Dew and run out of my house, and those definitely destroyed my body,” he said.
One solution some students, such as Ben-Artzi, implement are new, regimented routines. Ben-Artzi created a new routine for himself where he averages seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
“I had to shift it so that I have to wake up an hour earlier so that I can get more stuff in and be more awake for school,” he said. “I had to do math to figure this out; I had to figure out sleep cycles. I tried to match up the sleep cycles the best I could, and find the earliest I can get in bed for eight hours.”
However, new routines may not be able to resolve all of the causes of students’ lack of sleep, as the accumulation of schoolwork from multiple classes can become several hours of homework.
“I think about this a lot,” social studies teacher Adele Vergis, who frequently encourages students to get enough sleep, said. “Sometimes when I walk through the hallway to do errands during my planning period, and I see my students in another class, I think about how on any given day [students] have six classes or more where you have to change subjects and remember concepts and do homework.”
While individuals range in their required amount of sleep, long-term sleep deficiency can cause or exacerbate depression, anxiety, attention problems or physical issues such as high blood pressure or heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Sleep is crucial to academic performance, mental, emotional, social and physical health. While some factors are out of students’ control, developing a routine that allows sufficient amounts of sleep is important to a successful academic career and healthy life. Adjusting other habits, including outdoor activities, could contribute to a routine.
“You need to have time to go to the yard, take a walk, be a kid while you can, and I think all that helps with your sleep,” Peebles said.