Jericho High School Students Lack Sleep

By CHLOE SHAKIN and LAUREN GOLDSTEIN

Originally published May 2013

It is 2:00am, and Chloe Shakin is still awake studying for the AP Biology test that she will take tomorrow. She, like a majority of Jericho High School students, is choosing to study instead of sleep.

“I usually go to sleep after 12:00. It varies… sometimes it can be as late as 3:00 in the morning. I think the latest I’ve ever gone to sleep is around 4:00,” said the high school junior. “And sometimes I have to wake up at 6:00.”

In comparison, junior Jasdeep Kaur goes to sleep earlier but chooses to wake up at the crack of dawn to do her schoolwork. “If I go to sleep at 11:00, I usually get up at around 4:00. But if I have a test, then [I wake up] at 3:00,” she said.

Unfortunately, these two students are not the only ones who don’t get enough sleep. In a recent survey conducted among Jericho High School students, participants revealed that their lack of sleep has had various detrimental effects on their academic or personal lives. The National Sleep Foundation, which advises adolescents to sleep for 9.25 hours per night, lists forgetfulness, skin problems, aggression, and depression as some of the symptoms that often accompany sleep deprivation.

Despite dealing with many of the above problems, many students continue to place their academics before their more crucial needs for sleep. Sometimes, students stay up so late that they are unable to attend school the next day.

“Once, I went to sleep at 6 a.m. because I was studying, and my mom found out and didn’t let me go to school the next day. I couldn’t function; I was practically hallucinating. It felt like I was on drugs,” said junior Agnes Bae.

“It seems as though our adolescents are over-scheduled,” AP Psychology teacher Meredith Hynes said of why students tend to be so sleep-deprived. “There are increasing pressures on students to be involved in more and more activities—sports, clubs, community service—on top of their academics. While there’s nothing wrong with being well-rounded, the pressure that students face causes them to spread themselves too thin, which contributes to a lack of sleep.”

A vast majority of students reported that stress is the main culprit of their unhealthy sleeping habits. “Stress and anxiety are probably the things that
determine how much sleep I get each night,” said Shakin.

Lack of sleep has had increasingly visible effects on students’ personalities and personal relationships. “Many kids come in for counseling and say, ‘I’m concerned about my parents,’ or ‘I’m concerned about my girlfriend,’” says school social worker Dr. Todd Benjamin. “Not too many kids come in and say, ‘My issue is lack of sleep.’ But, in conversations we have, I’ll ask them about how much sleep they get and it becomes clear that they do not get enough, and that this is causing these problems.”

Many students recall falling asleep at times when it was crucial that they be attentive. “Instead of being alert and taking notes like I used to when I got enough sleep, I find myself falling asleep [in class],” said Shakin, “and once, I even briefly fell asleep during a one-on-one session with my SAT tutor!” Junior Niki Ajah fell asleep while taking her Earth Science Regents examination because she was so exhausted from cramming the night before.

Dr. Mary Carskadon, Director of The E.P. Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory at Brown University, recommends that teens take certain precautions to ensure that they get an optimal amount of sleep in the Encyclopedia of Sleep. “Set a bedtime for yourself that will allow enough time for sleep, and keep as close to it as you can,” Dr. Carskadon wrote. “Don’t sleep with your cell phone on, nor the computer, TV, or any other technology (including lights), [and] do not nap after 4 p.m.”

 

Despite being familiar with techniques like Carskadon’s, many students struggle with prioritizing their activities and resign themselves to the fact that they will be sleep-deprived for the majority of their high school years. “I definitely don’t think I get enough sleep and neither do my parents—they’re both physicians and they see sleep as something that should be my main priority,” said Chloe Shakin. “They think it should take priority over work and studying, but when you live in Jericho and you go to this high school it’s hard to get those priorities straight.”

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