Sleep gone South

Gaby Yap, asst. features editor

After hours of barely managing to interact with customers due to fatigue, senior Bella DeRosa slumped against the cold wall inside of her workplace’s freezer. The exhaustion she had dealt with over the past few days finally won, and her eyes slid shut as she fell asleep. She risked getting caught by her boss, and losing her job. There are many different factors that went into her lack of sleep, including her school work.

In DeRosa’s instance of having to get sleep at work, she emphasized that high expectations for oneself can come at the expense of students’ wellness. Losing sleep because of school work makes it harder to keep up with outside activities, and students should have time to be able to do these activities, DeRosa believes.

“I do so much [work and] I can’t let [it] affect me, or it’s just going to be my downfall,” DeRosa said.

Fifty three percent of students at South get an average of four to seven hours of sleep each night, according to a nonscientific survey of 385 students conducted by The Oracle. A  study done on teenage sleep patterns at the University of Michigan supports this statistic, recording that puberty can change the internal biological clocks teens have, which affects the amounts of sleep these students are getting. These internal clocks cause teens to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the day. This collides with schools starting classes earlier in the morning, and therefore causing a lack of sleep. Many external factors can also be attributed to this lower amount of sleep, one being the pressure to keep up with school, DeRosa added.

“There’s a cultural [attitude], especially at [South and] in the North Shore, that people are obsessed with how much they’re doing, how much they’re ‘grinding,’ when sometimes you don’t need to be obsessed with that,” DeRosa said. “It’s better that you actually take care of yourself, which includes sleeping.”

The cultural mindset of everyone pushing to juggle work can come at a cost, English Teacher Julie Schaeffer said. She explained that while it is important to work hard, students’ well-being should be a priority.

“We want students to be well and sleep is a big part of it,” Schaeffer said. “I’m concerned when I get an email from a student at 2:15 in the morning, which I do, and I feel if teachers see those kinds of flags, we should be following up.”

“Nothing will work unless you do” is a quote by Maya Angelou that Schaeffer often refers back to as a reminder to take care of herself, further explaining that being well-rested is important for functioning throughout the day. South psychologist Jonathan Schwartz agreed that putting off sleep is not a good idea, as a student’s lack of sleep affects them in multiple ways, specifically their ability to concentrate, he said.

“[Not getting enough sleep] impacts your ability to sustain attention over longer periods of time, your ability to refocus when you become off task, [and] your ability to initiate tasks to regulate your emotion,’’ Schwartz said.

Additionally, one’s performance can decrease with a lack of sleep, junior Shreya Ruia added. With less sleep, students tire more easily throughout the day, which can cause a lack of focus while learning, Ruia said.

“There are studies on how you need eight to nine hours of sleep, so the fact that I get five hours of sleep daily [is] not good for me,” Ruia said. “I don’t think that it helps me.”

Ruia takes into account distractions that can dampen any motivation in moments like these, where one can feel stuck procrastinating. She suggests time management as a way to combat these distractions and manage your workload in order to get more sleep.

“Even though I procrastinate when I am doing my homework, I make sure that I’m very [focused], so that I don’t spend as much time studying or going over [the material] because I’ve already learnt it and I know it,” Ruia said. “That would be my main tip for getting homework done and saving time so that you can get more sleep.”

Another strategy for time and work management      Schwartz recommended, is an “inventory check” of what’s inhibiting you from getting work done – and therefore getting to sleep – and from there trying to manage one’s time by prioritizing and determining the confines for the day.

For those who need extra help in time management, South offers a program called Academic Coaching Assistance Program (ACAP), recommended by social worker David Hartman, which helps students with executive functioning skills. An adult in the building meets with a student (typically twice a week) and helps the student develop the skills that they need in order to be successful, which includes managing work to get the sleep they need, according to Hartman.

Schwartz believes establishing a sleep routine and getting an adequate amount of sleep is important for many reasons. One’s mental as well as physical well-being are some of the ways one can benefit from getting the amount of sleep needed, Schwartz added. Although working to prioritize work and getting enough sleep is not something that will happen overnight, it’s something all students can do, according to Schwartz.

“Sleep on,” Schwartz said.