Sacrificing Sleep? When Students Overlook the Consequences
Author Rebecca Li
As the clock ticks at a never-ending pace, the pressure to complete all tasks becomes overwhelming. Before you know it, it’s already past midnight.
Sleep is something that most Charter students claim they never get enough of. While it is true that students make it hard on themselves, overloading with extracurriculars and AP classes, it’s hard to avoid the “stress culture” that influences Charter, especially when students have personal motivations for challenging themselves and succeeding.
The recommended eight to ten hours of sleep per night for teens sounds heavenly but also unattainable. Many students stay up until ridiculous hours to finish everything on their agenda, and most of the time, it’s not due to negligence but rather a booked schedule of after-school activities and other commitments.
These habits can make students burn out, and it’s no surprise that sleep deprivation can lead to negative health consequences. It’s evident that some students reject the exhaustion that they feel and keep pushing on further and further. We think we know the consequences of what we are doing, but is the exhaustion really worth it?
The fact is that our bodies just cannot handle that. The short-term effects are noticeable—having trouble concentrating in class, drowsiness, an irritable mood, etc. However, until now, there have been few studies evaluating the effects of long-term sleep deprivation.
Recently, in October 2017, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young for their studies that elucidated the inner molecular mechanisms that control our circadian rhythms. They pinpointed the location of a gene called period. The gene codes a protein whose levels fluctuate in a 24-hour cycle, accumulating during the night and degrading during the day (The 2017 Nobel Prize Press Release).
Their discovery was particularly remarkable because it revealed that human circadian rhythms are gene-regulated. There’s now evidence that sleep deprivation can disrupt the genes that coordinate our sleep cycles, consequences that affect our health on a molecular basis (The 2017 Nobel Prize Press Release).
People would never willingly go 24 hours without food or water, other vital components of our life. Why is it acceptable to sacrifice sleep in order to make room in our lives for other priorities?
One rough night won’t hurt you. However, it’s important that we don’t make a habit of losing sleep. Our bodies must carry us through a lifetime, and it’s important that we give ourselves a break and consider what really matters in the long-term. It’s impossible to reach the future goals we set if we burn out too early. Ultimately, the lack of sleep is not worth the toll on our health.