i need sleep
December 27th, 2018
As you can see from the above image, I don’t sleep much.
The photo is actually a rather prized piece of mine. It falls under the category of digital art, as I used the prestigious software program Pic Collage to put it together—a collection of screenshots depicting my sleep schedule several nights of the school year so far. Although it’s only been four months since summer, I’ve managed to pull some near-all-nighters.
My lack of sleep is towards the extreme end, but I am by no means alone in my dire sleep deprivation. On any given morning, one could walk into the hallway of any grade at my high school and listen to students aged 11 to 19 asking the age-old question: “How much sleep did YOU get last night?” Chances are, the answer is around five (six, if they’re an especially talented sleeper,) and the asker is asking because their own answer is somewhere between zero and four—except, of course, for the rare and wholesome occasion of the asker being proud of their 7+ hours.
If you, the person reading this, are a high school student yourself, five to six might not seem so bad. It isn’t, really. Considering MY average night? True story: two weeks ago, I was lying sideways in my bed, sobbing into the pillow, clutching my phone in both hands. Its screen was too bright in the room lit only by a cloudy dawn, and too blue since the Night-Shift mode had just turned off, but I held it six inches from my face and cried of happiness because it showed that I had gotten a full six hours of sleep. My FitBit app was proud of me—there was a little green star next to the measurement: 6 hr 27 min. I was so emotional, you never would have guessed I wasn’t severely sleep deprived.
According to the Nationwide Children's Hospital, the recommended amount of sleep for teenagers (defined as anyone 13 to 19 years old) is nine to nine and a half hours. (Yes, that’s nine hours per night—I, too, was disappointed to find that it’s not the weekly requirement. For a moment, I almost thought I was doing it right!) The same article containing this information lists the average amount of sleep that teenagers actually get as seven (also measured in “hours per night”). That may hold true on a national level, but I suspect that the number is at least an hour lower for those in elite New York City high schools.
The point of this article isn’t to warn you about the dangers of sleep deprivation. We’ve all heard it before—weakened immune system, impaired focus and cognitive function during the day, worsened performance in athletic activities, hindered growth of the adolescent brain, increased risk of mental illness; not to mention a generally lowered tolerance for the outside world (aka. grumpiness). (Read more about the detrimental effects of adolescents not getting enough sleep here.) I just wanted to raise awareness for the phenomenon that’s still happening under all of our noses—it’s real, it’s persistent, and it’s much worse than you think.