A Student’s Worst Nightmare: Sleep?

Though people recognize the importance of sleep, they often find that creating a healthy sleep schedule is difficult because of the effects of sleep deprivation and oversleeping.

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The hardest thing to do for every student is to wake up. Every day in the morning, phone screens around the world light up and ring repetitively—it’s the alarm that signals the end of a good night’s rest. 

Getting enough sleep is crucial for a long lifespan. The body experiences two different phases of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. The first phase, non-REM sleep, is composed of three different stages. Stage one, also known as N1, lasts around seven minutes and occurs when a person first falls asleep. During this stage, brain activities start to slow down, but the body is not fully relaxed yet. During stage two, or N2, the body experiences a temperature drop of around one to two °C, and the stage may last around 10 to 15 minutes. At this point, there are short bursts of activity in the brain. Stage three, or N3, lasts around 20 to 40 minutes and occurs when an individual starts falling into deep sleep, making it harder to wake up. The brain starts to show new delta waves, the slowest recorded waves in human beings. Finally, in REM sleep, brain activity picks up, and the body experiences atonia, the temporary paralysis of the body other than the movement of eyes and the muscles that control breathing. This stage is essential for cognitive functions such as memory, learning, and creativity and lasts around 25 percent of an adult’s sleep cycle. All stages of the sleep cycle are crucial for daytime efficiency and thinking. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, one person spends around 25 to 33 percent of their lifespan sleeping. It is recommended that teenagers receive around eight to 10 hours of sleep daily to ensure healthy brain function and neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to change, grow, and develop unique functions as a response to external or internal stimuli. However, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that the average teenager only gets around seven to 7.25 hours of sleep, mainly due to social and educational obligations as well as early high school start times. These numbers make sleep a concerning issue for current and future youth generations.

This insufficient amount of sleep can lead to sleep deprivation, otherwise known as sleep deficiency. Although it usually stems from not sleeping enough hours, it could also be caused by sleeping at the wrong time of day, not having good-quality sleep, or having a sleeping disorder. Such sleep disorders include narcolepsy, a condition that causes excessive daytime sleepiness, and insomnia, a disorder that causes individuals to have problems falling or staying asleep, among others. 

Sleep-deprived individuals often experience numerous negative effects during their waking hours due to the accumulation of the beta-amyloid protein, an amino acid peptide that disrupts cognitive functions. Additionally, the lack of sleep prevents the body’s immune cells from properly functioning, leading to a weakened immune system. Other side effects include symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, seizures, and migraines. Individuals may also have higher amounts of the appetite stimulant ghrelin in their bloodstream, leading to nighttime snacking and overeating. This poses an issue as it has been proven that eating food around three hours before bedtime may disrupt sleep, worsen heartburn, cause discomfort, and increase gastric acid secretion, which can worsen the quality of sleep for nighttime sleepers. Sleep deprivation should be fixed by creating a more efficient and healthy sleep schedule. However, sleep specialists recommend that patients with mild cases of narcolepsy or insomnia should take prescribed medicine.

While sleep deprivation is detrimental, oversleeping can be just as bad for one’s health. Oversleeping is categorized as an individual sleeping over ten hours a day to be able to function. Not only does this ruin sleep schedules, but it can cause headaches, excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and worsening moods and functions throughout the day. 

Loaded with homework and exams, Stuyvesant students tend to experience difficulties with building and sticking to a healthy sleep schedule. Instead, they substitute it with caffeinated drinks to compensate for the fatigue. However, the Food and Drugs Administration found that individuals drinking over 400 milligrams of caffeine a day will experience harmful side effects such as insomnia, anxiety disorders, and heartburn. Understanding this, the newly placed limit on homework to be an hour for each class in a day helped many students get more sleep at night. Additionally, the Stuyvesant guidance counselors recommended setting aside your phones when working to ensure efficiency. These changes can help contribute to healthier sleep habits and general livelihoods for students.