TeenLife Blog

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Dear Teens: Don't Forget To Sleep

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Sleepy young woman yawning.

Writing this, I feel the pull of drowsiness at the corners of my mind. I slept only 5 1/2 hours last night – no wonder I feel so tired. My relationship with sleep has evolved and hit many obstacles over my 3½ years of high school.

In addition to eating well and regularly exercising, getting enough sleep at night is paramount to maintaining your overall health. Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Seems reasonable, right?

Maybe it is, for a teenager living under the right circumstances. However, leading up to my senior year, I’ve noticed a correlating trend in the amount of sleep I get each night and the amount of homework and other activities I need to complete.

Lately, my weeks have looked like this: Weekdays, I generally sleep anywhere from four to six hours at night, with the occasional outlier in either direction. As soon as Friday hits, I go to bed around 8 p.m. and sleep for approximately 12 hours so that I still have time to be productive on Saturday.

To be honest, it’s pretty rough. I know for a fact that most of my friends (who take the same classes as I do) have similar sleep patterns – not as good as they should be. So why are teenagers not sleeping enough?

Here’s what I’ve noticed from my own experience:

  1. The volume and difficulty of school work I need to complete is extremely high.

    Many of my courses are largely self-taught and have a number of assignments due every week: essays, notes, projects, etc. I am also currently in the college and scholarship application process.
  2. I have other activities to do in addition to my class work.

    Volunteering, exercising, extracurriculars – there’s always something to do.

Really, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for it all. When you break down the hours in a day, it seems easy to say “oh, you have (blank) hours to do school work, (blank) hours to sleep, (blank) hours to eat and exercise.” In my experience, however, it’s not so simple. Such a rigid schedule cuts out any free time I have, especially with my longest day at school being over eight hours (or longer with clubs). Not to mention I become distracted easily when the only thing I’ve been doing all day is school work, and this leads to an overall drop in productivity.

You probably came to this post to find out ways to get more sleep or understand why your kid isn’t sleeping enough. I have a few habits that I try to practice in order to sleep more.

1.Try as hard as possible to limit distractions.

I know it’s really awful to cut out your things, but sometimes it's necessary in order to maintain a healthy balance. For example, I recently started recording my screen time each day and limiting my use of certain apps.

2. Set a schedule and step away from the screen.

It’s important to set a time when you need to start getting ready for bed and finally close the laptop. If not, you might convince yourself to work for another “30” minutes or end up getting distracted for hours, not completing what needs to be completed.

3. Understand that sleep is not really something that should be neglected.

Sleep is just as important, if not more so, than eating healthy and exercising. It took me a long time to understand that lack of sleep doesn’t just make you tired, it also has negative effects on your emotions, performance in school, and more.

I’m still in the process of learning how to manage my time in order to sleep enough and also do what needs to be done. It’s obviously a work in progress, but I am learning how to have a balanced life in order to improve my quality of life. The reason I am writing this is to reach out to other students who might be having this problem in their lives, and want to find a solution. It’s not an easily improved situation, but I have hope for the near future. I just need to work on improving my habits!

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Katrielle Soussana is a student in North Carolina who has a passion for learning and helping others. She plans to pursue a career in STEM. She has her own blog, www.sagacity.space which is about education and school.