RHS Students Suffer From Sleep Deprivation

Photo by Creative Commons

Photo by Creative Commons

Kathryn Chatman, Staff Writer

As she sits in class, trying to focus on her schoolwork, junior Eileen Brennan struggles to keep her eyes open. Once again, she was barely able to obtain five hours of sleep the night before, as she was occupied by a day full of band rehearsals, theatre meetings, and several hours of homework. Brennan’s case may sound familiar to the typical high school, as they too struggle with the effects of getting too little rest, or sleep deprivation.

“I have a lot of after school activities that go on, then by the time I get home and eat dinner and do homework, I still want some relaxing time to play video games or read,” Brennan said. “Cramming all that into one night [is hard].”

Like, Brennan, sophomore Lauren Gregorio knows all too well the consequences of not getting enough rest. Her days vary in consisting of theatre, robotics, art club, and Student Helping Others meetings, which makes it difficult to go to bed at a decent time.

“Twice this year I never [went to bed],” Gregorio said.”  My parents think I go to bed at 10:30. One time I went to bed at 5 a.m., sometimes I go to bed at 11:30 and wake up at 4 a.m.”

Sleep deprivation carries many side effects, including cognitive impairment, hallucinations, and microsleeps, in which an individual temporarily falls asleep during the day for about 30 seconds. In a 2006 interview with the Harvard Business, Dr. Charles A. Czeisler describes how sleep deprivation can increase one appetite, which explains the connection seen between lack of sleep and increased obesity rates.

“Interestingly, chronic sleep restriction increases levels of appetite and stress hormones; it also reduces one’s ability to metabolize glucose and increases the production of the hormone ghrelin, which makes people crave carbohydrates and sugars, so they get heavier, which in turn raises the risk of sleep apnea, creating a vicious cycle,” Dr. Czeisler said.

One may wonder why someone put themselves at risk for such health problems when the solution is so seemingly. There are many factors that contribute to ones lack of sleep, as Gregorio describes.

“Schoolwork, and being dead tired when I get home, and not wanting to do homework until late.” Gregorio said. “My parents don’t like it when I nap, so I bring this upon myself because I procrastinate. I have a lot of schoolwork, and I do a lot of clubs and [extracurriculars].”

Because of sleep deprivation, have too much to do the night before can translate into decreased performance the next day. For Brennan, her busy nightly routine results in a struggle to stay awake during her earlier classes.

“During a normal school day, I feel really tired in the morning,” Brennan said. “Usually I always make myself coffee. By the time I finish drinking this huge thing of coffee I’m awake around third hour because its band and I have to move around and use my brain. So, I’m tired in the morning and I wake up later [in the day], then by the time I get home I crash [because] I’m so tired.”

As one deprives their body of sleep for extended periods of time, they develop a sleep debt, which is a cumulative deficit that continues to builds. However, a sleep debt cannot be paid off simply by sleeping a few extra hours the next time they get a chance. As Dr. Steven Feinsilver told The Atlantic, if one were to only get five hours of sleep throughout the week, they’d owe themselves about 12 hours.

“What that means is that, in order for you to catch up on weekends, you’d have to sleep ridiculous hours. And nobody does. You’d have to sleep the seven, plus an extra 12,” Dr. Feinsilver said.

A person recovers from sleep debt gradually, over an extended amount of time. The problem with this is that a person usually doesn’t take the time the recover before they start losing hours again, resulting in more debt. Sleep debt results in many of the effects associated with sleep deprivation, including lack of alertness, which Brennan suffers from. If she were to get more rest, it would greatly improve her performance.

“I feel like I’d be more attentive in my first few hours, like French 4 or Algebra 2. Right now those are two of my lowest grades, so I feel like I’d do better [because] I’d have a better attention span and I would more actively participate in class,” Brennan said.

As far as improvements go, Gregorio says that she could achieve a good night’s rest by better balancing her extracurriculars and study practices, both of which are of importance.

“All these clubs help motivate me to get stuff done, but to be honest, I think it would be much worse if I didn’t have these things because I’d just procrastinate more,” Gregorio said. “I could improve [my sleeping pattern] by not procrastinating, [having] better study habits and doing work when I say I’m going to do work.”

Brennan admits that if she were to relinquish some of her extracurricular demands, she would be able to gain a few more hours of sleep each night.

“I could improve my sleep patterns by just making more time for sleep. I spend so much time doing band or theatre related activities that by the time I get home I have so much homework that I just don’t have time to sleep,” Brennan said.

However, losing sleep is worth the sacrifice to Brennan when it comes to doing the things she enjoys most.

“I love it too much. I love band and theatre too much that I’m willing to give up my sleep for them, which is pretty sad,” Brennan said.