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Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Mira Loma’s Rampant Sleep Deprivation Issue

Mira Loma students, along with other teenagers across the nation, are part of a growing sleep deprivation epidemic. Academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, jobs, and other commitments may each demand hours from every day. On top of this, students are pushed to excel academically in an increasingly competitive educational environment. Students must also find ways to accommodate hobbies and other forms of recreation into their schedules to prevent themselves from reaching a point of mental burnout. For many, this necessary downtime is spent on technology or with friends. When there are limited hours to every day, sleep becomes less of a priority. Meanwhile, mental and physical health is put at risk. While the burden of juggling activities and academic pressure is not felt by everyone, the bottom line is that for a variety of reasons, many Mira Loma students are not getting sufficient amounts of sleep, a growing problem that deserves more attention. 

What exactly is the recommended average amount of sleep for high school students? For teenagers who are 13 to 18 years old, the CDC advises regularly sleeping 8 to 10 hours each day. For context, it is recommended that children ages 6 to 12 years sleep 9 to 12 hours each day, while it is optimal for adults to get at least 7 hours of sleep on most nights.

What is the impact of sleep deprivation? A habitual deprioritization of sleep can lead to many potential downsides. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic sleep deprivation in teenagers can lead to depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other nonspecific emotional problems. Although staying up late occasionally may help you ace an upcoming test, chronic sleep deprivation leads to poor cognition, sleepiness during classes, and, in the end, poorer academic performance. Moreover, an increase in drowsy teenage drivers behind the wheel can result in more traffic accidents, leading to greater teenage injuries and deaths. (APA) If that’s not enough cause for alarm, chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to poor decision-making, risky behavior, impaired immune function, hormonal imbalance, poor tissue repair, an increased risk of diabetes, and the development of cardiovascular illness in the future. (Sleep Foundation) With this myriad of detrimental consequences, the serious problem of chronic sleep deprivation should be better appreciated and addressed. 

Mira Loma Statistics

According to the CDC, about 7 out of 10, or approximately 72.7%, of high school students are getting less than the minimum recommendation of 8 hours of sleep per night. Keep in mind that eight hours of sleep per night is the minimum recommendation, while 9 or 10 hours is closer to what is considered ideal. The Nationwide Children’s Hospital states that, on average, American teenagers are getting around 7 hours of sleep a night. How do Mira Loma students fare compared to these national statistics? Based on a sample survey of 62 Mira Loma students, here are the results.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your grade level?. Number of responses: 62 responses.
Forms response chart. Question title: How many hours of sleep do you get on an average weeknight?. Number of responses: 62 responses.
Forms response chart. Question title: What are the main causes of your lack of sleep (if applicable)? Please check all that apply.. Number of responses: 59 responses.

Based on the responses gathered from this survey, the data indicates that Mira Loma students are getting less than the national average of 7 hours of sleep per night (which was already suboptimal). The calculated average sleep for Mira Loma students comes out to be 5.98 hours per night. Just under half of respondents reported never having pulled an all-nighter, while the other half of respondents have pulled varying numbers of all-nighters starting from their freshman year. Additionally, half of the respondents stated that they never fell asleep in class on a weekly basis, while the other half indicated that they occasionally fell asleep, with a few more extreme exceptions. 

The majority of students responding to the survey identified academics and extracurricular activities as the main cause of their sleep deprivation. An anonymous sophomore comments, “I think that sleep deprivation is a serious problem for students everywhere, but especially for those at Mira Loma who are participating in rigorous academic programs. There is a lot of pressure to perform well, while also being a healthy and well-rounded individual.” Another anonymous junior adds that “a major issue is that many students have jam packed days almost every day” and that “ high academic pressure at ML causes students to brag about the low amounts of sleep they get, which fuels a toxic environment.”

Maintaining a good sleep schedule is even harder for students who have jobs, another significant cause of sleep deprivation based on the survey. An anonymous junior comments, “Personally, I have a number of extracurriculars and a job on top of school so it is often a challenge for me to get everything done.” 

Many students identified video games and technology as the culprit behind their sleep deprivation. Hayden Liu, ‘24, believes that “as long as you don’t waste time on entertainment most people can easily finish schoolwork by 9 pm.” Further supporting this statement, an anonymous freshman cites the role of cell phones in causing sleep deprivation, stating that “life doesn’t need to involve your phone for multiple hours at night before you go to sleep…If you put your phone away, the world won’t explode.” Ms. Cornelison, an ML history teacher, agrees that “another contributing factor is certainly the addictive and emotionally draining nature of social media and video games.” English teacher Mr. Carmona believes that helping students better manage their screen time “would go a long way to helping stabilize students’ sleep patterns.”

Potential Solutions

The first step in approaching a solution to this problem is to recognize that sleep deprivation is a serious issue that affects many of the nation’s youth. Education of teenagers, parents and other adults about the adverse physical, mental, social, and academic consequences of sleep deprivation may motivate students to prioritize sleep and motivate adults to assist them in this endeavor. With this crucial foundation laid, one solution that few have truly mastered is better time management. Allotting a reasonable amount of time to complete a task, and focusing on completing that task during that time window may help to improve self-discipline and efficiency. Also, being productive during free bits of time during the day, such as during long car rides, allows for more to be done without taking away from necessary sleep time. Completing what you can as efficiently as possible during the day means more sleep at night. Mr. De Ruysscher, an English and theory of knowledge teacher advises, “Make the most use of your time that you have at school. Be efficient, be disciplined. Don’t put things off.” 

Secondly, simplifying life may be another solution, despite how disagreeable it may seem to most students. It may be time to let go of an activity or two for the sake of preserving one’s own health. Sometimes it is better to commit to a few activities and focus on them as opposed to simply participating in more activities. Also, for some of us, perhaps it is time to consider putting less pressure on ourselves to excel in all areas all the time. Ms. Cornelison advises, “Students everywhere have jobs, play sports, take hard classes, and stay up later than they should. I’m honestly not sure what advice to give other than GO TO BED! Yes, schoolwork is important, especially for you IB super kids, but your health and well-being are even more so. If you burn yourself out, you’ll crash and burn much harder than if you take a break every once in a while.”

Thirdly, if playing video games, continuous texting with friends, or checking social platforms is keeping you up late at night, it may be time to set a limit to this time spent on technology. Some social and downtime is needed for mental health, but chronic sleep deprivation will lead to far more problems. Ms. Cornelison comments, “I also would love to see less obsession with social media, like TikTok and Instagram and Discord, etc. Those platforms are literally designed to addict our brains, and they end up not just addicting us, but changing the way our brains are wired. Not only is this not healthy, but it leads to less sleep and less quality sleep. Social media certainly has its place and benefits, but sometimes it’s just too much.” 

Finally, for those whose sleep deprivation is the result of insomnia, experts advise turning off all screens at least an hour before bed, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, and limiting late evening snacking, especially sources of caffeine. (Child Mind Institute)

Recognizing that teenagers need more sleep, the state of California has passed a law that delays the starting time of high schools. Beginning next school year, the earliest that California high schools can start classes is 8:30 a.m. At Mira Loma next year, classes will begin at 8:30 a.m. instead of 8:00 a.m. If a student only sleeps 5 to 6 hours a night, this extra 30 minutes will make a significant difference. Moreover, over the duration of a school year, this could mean an accumulation of a far greater amount of sleep for most students. Getting this extra sleep, however, would mean that students don’t see this as an opportunity to stay up later. In addition, for many households, this may not translate into any extra sleep for students since most parents will not be able to delay the start of the workday to match the new high school schedule. Mr. De Ruysscher predicts, “Kids are going to be sitting here in the hallways for maybe up to an hour before school starts. They’re not going to get any more sleep, and that’s the whole idea behind it. Parents are going to still need to get to work… A one size fits all solution doesn’t work very often.”

As Mr. De Ruysscher points out, there is no one solution for everyone. Consider what solution or solutions might work best for your situation. As we start this new year and a new semester, make it a priority to try to get more sleep.

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