It’s not an uncommon sight: the disheveled, drooling student snoring in the back of the class, slumped over a desk.
Just about anyone you talk to at Carmel High has a story about the time they “pulled an all-nighter” or “drank three 5-Hour Energies”—somehow, sleep deprivation is a badge of honor, a rite of passage for night-owl procrastinators.
But at what cost?
Given the cavalcade of homework that accompanies every passing year, some students are pushed to desperate measures to keep up. Sometimes that means caffeine, and sometimes that means severe cutbacks on sleep.
Senior Kyle Mowatt is no stranger to this.
“With my busy schedule, I find it difficult to complete all I need to do at night, so I’ll go to bed sometimes around 11 o’clock at night and I’ll wake up around 4 a.m. so I can get to Starbucks at 5 a.m. and do my homework until school starts,” Mowatt says.
At first glance, the consequences of a bad night’s sleep might not seem all that significant—and that’s true. Generally speaking, the worst thing that can happen is sleeping through an important seminar or failing a unit test—as senior Evan Probasco says, when “you come to school [with] four hours of sleep, you can’t function.”
But when sleepless nights begin to compound into a sleep deficit, things can take a serious turn for the worse.
For instance, an “Expert Panel on Driver Fatigue and Sleepiness” from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that “drivers younger than 30 [account] for almost two-thirds of drowsy-driving crashes, despite representing only about one-fourth of licensed drivers.”
That doesn’t bode well—especially since the National Sleep Foundation says that only about 15 percent of teenagers get sufficient sleep on school nights.
In the past, Carmel Unified School District has attempted to fight sleep deprivation by pushing back the school schedule.
“The research shows that teens benefit from [staying] up later and sleeping later during the day, so I don’t think anyone doubts that it would be good for teenagers,” says English teacher Barbara Steinberg. “ But…when they did the research, it just wasn’t viable for a high school. It’s strange because no one else in our society, pretty much, is up by seven in the morning.”
And thus, Carmel High continues to start at 7:40 a.m. Monday through Friday.
What’s so bad about this?
If students try to scrape through high school in a state of perpetual drowsiness, they won’t develop the regimen they need to survive in college and beyond. And sooner or later, poor time management does catch up with you—because according to a 2010 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 41 percent of adult drivers say that they have fallen asleep at the wheel before.
So how can teens find balance?
For most students, it’s unreasonable to try and get 10 hours of sleep every night, but that’s no reason not to work on better time management skills.
The essence of time management is prioritizing what’s important to you. For instance, senior Brett Luch says that as an athlete, he “[feels] like he’s letting his team down” when he doesn’t get enough sleep.
And if you needed any more incentive to get some rest, remember that “when you’re staying up until midnight, you’re not producing your best work,” as Luch says.
In conclusion, your AP comparative essay, Netflix and rock collection all matter—but on school nights, the best thing to do is to try and get as much sleep as possible. There are no easy answers, but believe me—waking up without bags under your eyes is well worth the effort.
Just give it a shot! You’ll thank yourself later.