Opinion: School is not worth losing sleep over

Most of my nights end with the same question: Do I go to sleep or finish my school work? Each day typically ends with little sleep and loads of assignments, completed or not. The decision to stay up and work usually stems from an insignificant deadline causing me high levels of stress, rather than a big picture item. However, as developing teenagers, these late-night homework cramming sessions in an effort to save immediate, yet insignificant grades may be detrimental to our health, both short and long term. 

While for some, lack of sleep is the result of staying up to play video games or talking to friends, it seems the majority of sleep is sacrificed due to academic commitments. Our school system has become so obsessed with meaningless numerical values that we have lost sight of the things that really matter: individual wellbeing and mental health. 

According to a 2015 CDC study, 70% of high school students do not get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep per 24 hours. Not getting the proper amount of sleep can have a multitude of negative impacts: concentration issues, mood swings, increased risk for obesity, weakened immune system, memory issues, increased risk for mental illnesses and more. While impacts will not be felt immediately, they can worsen over time, and can even occur unnoticed. 

Loss of sleep accumulates over time. Sleep debt, or the amount of sleep you have missed out on during a certain time period, can only be repaid in smaller increments. There’s a limit to the amount of lost time you can make up for, capping at around 20 hours. With restrictions on how much sleep your body can catch up on, hours that students are losing to complete assignments are being permanently lost. 

Despite data showing students leaning in the wrong direction, there are still ways to combat lack of sleep. Having a set schedule or consistency with going to sleep and waking up at a similar time has been shown to improve sleep health. Putting away devices before getting ready for bed and silencing them helps stop further brain stimulation while trying to fall asleep. Above all else, we as a society need to reorder and prioritize taking care of ourselves. 

 A few grades will not make or break your future, but neglecting sleep can and will create lasting negative impacts that can be prevented by taking action now. When given the decision between staying up to finish a mindless petty task or getting a good night’s rest, choose rest.