Sleep deprivation and stress on the rise in education
Intelligence, opportunities, knowledge: all byproducts of getting an education. However, these things often come with a cost of stress, anxiety and sleep deprivation.
Whether it be to get accepted into a specific college or pressure from parents, several students are struggling in an attempt to balance their academic, athletic, extracurricular, and social lives.
Sleep deprivation in students
Though students have different methods of managing this stress, many see the results of it in the same way: sleep deprivation.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers should be getting between 8-10 hours of sleep each night, though The Journal of Adolescent Health “found that 10 percent of adolescents sleep only five hours and 23 percent sleep only six hours on an average school night.”
This holds true when looking at Perry students, as a recent poll of 150 students showed that 49 percent of students only get 4-6 hours of sleep a night and about only 4 percent get 8 or more.
While the simple answer to this problem seems to be for students to go to sleep earlier or take naps, that is not an option for most.
“If you look at what they are doing, there’s no room for sleep in their schedule,” psychology teacher Jocelyn Dolan said.
Many students are involved in high-level classes, extracurriculars, jobs or athletics, and in many cases, a combination of all of the above. For many, sleep is not a priority.
Junior Trinity Kaufman gets an average of six hours of sleep a night, and explained the difficulties of balancing being an athlete and a student.
“I have no time for naps, like there’s always something to be doing,” she said. “I’ll be drowsy in class and not be able to focus and that really sucks, especially during finals.”
Sleep plays a large role in a student’s academic performance. According to Karen Huffman, author of Psychology in Action, sleep deprivation can cause impaired ability to perform everyday tasks, such as taking notes or quizzes.
Many have argued that a later school start time would not only benefit students academically but psychologically as well.
“I really respectfully disagree with the school starting time for high schoolers,” said English department chair Cindy Pino. “I think having you all here at 7:30 is counter-intuitive to what scientists say to your sleep patterns.”
However, in order to accommodate Chandler district’s bus schedule, this change has not and cannot be made at this time.
The National Sleep Foundation explained that pushing start times back just an hour later would improve the academic and social behavior of students. Many students lacking sleep are unengaged and less productive and would benefit from an 8:30 a.m. start time, as it would be more in sync with their internal clock.
An increase of stress
Sleep deprivation and stress go hand-in-hand. The two typically have a cause and effect relationship, and both can be seen extensively in students, especially during this time of year.
“The stress level for students goes way up towards the end of the semester,” counselor Scott Uyeshrio said. “They are just overwhelmed with a lot of exams.”
Though stress is heightened during the weeks prior to finals, it never seems to leave students. This is mostly due to the fact that many students are unaware of how to manage it, and it begins to take a toll on their mental health.
According to a Psychology Today article, collegiate-level educators are noticing that students coming directly out of high school are not familiar with stress coping mechanisms and are showing that they are unable to deal with even the slightest of difficulty.
“You get so wrapped up in the grade or the end-goal, that you forget about the now and that’s not really a positive, healthy thing to do,” Dolan said.
Stress and sleep deprivation have not always been this prominent in students however, and has transformed over the years. Students today are more anxious and overworked than they ever have been before.
“I definitely think since I’ve started teaching high school, I’ve seen students get more stressed out and sleep deprived,” said Dolan.
However, Pino disagreed that stress has increased as a result of school, but rather because of the increasing expectations outside of the classroom.
“Things are so much more stressful in the real world, that I think it then it starts to affect school,” she said. “So I don’t think schools changed, but I think what’s happening outside of school has changed.”
According to the Psychology Today article, “The number of those in counseling varies from campus to campus depending on its culture – ten percent at some large schools, nearly 50 percent at some small, private ones. The figure has been steadily growing for two decades and shows no signs of slowing.”
Within the last few years alone, it seems student stress level has risen at Perry as well. “I think it’s increased. I think the expectations of teachers are higher in the classroom,” Uyeshiro said.
This increase of stress in students seems to stem from many different sources. Higher expectations from colleges, parents, and even students themselves have lead to the increased pressure many feel.
“I think it comes from adults and parents, [who] put a lot of pressure on their kids,” Kaufman said. “Especially this time of year, college is in our future.”
The impending future of college has an influence on several students, as they push themselves to excel in academics. Many are enrolled in one, if not multiple, honors or advanced placement (AP) classes, in addition to being involved in extracurriculars and sports.
“A lot of my best students are overworked,” Dolan said. “They’re trying to do everything because they are trying to get into the best college.”
While the stress and work students put into these classes tends to pay off, it may come with a cost. Putting academics and extracurriculars above sleep and mental health has a great effect, which many students have begun to feel.
As Dolan put it, “High school should be fun at some point, not all work and driving yourself into the ground.”