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Sleep at the High School of American Studies

Ava Karaganis, Grade 10, Staff Writer

 

Sleep is fundamental to our ability to process information in our day-to-day lives. It’s important in order to build memory and maintain good physical and mental health.


Teenagers need more sleep than adults because their brains and bodies are developing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that teenagers get 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night. Compared to adults and children, teenagers have shifted circadian rhythms, which means they start to fall asleep only around 11 p.m. or later. Not getting enough sleep can cause a variety of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, injuries, poor mental health, and behavior problems.


The CDC reports that 70% of high schoolers nationwide do not get enough sleep. The majority of students at the High School of American Studies (HSAS) are sleep-deprived. On average, students get about 6.5 hours of sleep. The most sleep people reported was 8 hours, and the least 5 hours.


Why do HSAS students not get enough sleep?

Let’s account for a typical student schedule. Many students have long commutes and get up around 6 a.m. to start the school day at 8. With extracurricular activities, homework, and dinner, students will likely have to work on homework until 10 p.m. or later. If the student is in bed at 10:30, they might not fall asleep until 11 p.m. or later because of delayed circadian rhythms. This leaves students with, at best, 7 hours of sleep. Though schedules vary based on the day and person, most students struggle with their sleep due to a similar lack of time.


So, how can HSAS students improve their sleep?

Students can limit their exposure to electronics a couple of hours before going to sleep. The blue light from screens tricks the brain into thinking it is daytime, interfering with circadian rhythms. Another key factor is to maintain a consistent schedule. Irregular sleep, such as getting 5 hours of sleep one night and catching up on the weekends, disrupts the circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep. Taking short, 15 to 20 minute, naps early in the afternoon, on the other hand, can be very helpful. However, if the naps are too long or too late in the evening, they can do more harm than good. Exercising regularly can also make it easier to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep.

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