Losing ZZZs …
On a typical day during Robotics season, senior Hall Chen wakes up at 4 a.m. in the morning to complete homework until 6 a.m., and then prepares to arrive promptly to his zero period Theory of Knowledge class. After school, he heads off to work hours with his Robotics team, usually arriving back home at 9 p.m. After a quick dinner, he diligently finishes any assignments that are due before midnight; he then tries to get to bed by 10 p.m. and catch some snooze for the next day.
Taking seven classes with six of them being AP or IB, Chen has been following this schedule every year during his high school career. When he’s off Robotics season, he spends his after school hours on errands and miscellaneous business, and adjusts his sleeping schedule to from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Although Chen’s day may not be that of every student in Diamond Bar High School, it shows a glimpse of the hectic and demanding schedules that many Brahmas follow everyday.
As the competition and requirements for colleges have increased, so has the workload for high school students across the country. Consequently, more students experience sleep deprivation as they struggle to balance rigorous academics and extracurricular activities.
“Everyone is under a lot of pressure to accomplish so much that sleeping and health gets pushed lower and lower on their list of priorities. It just becomes an endless cycle where being tired and falling asleep in class makes it harder for you to accomplish what you want to,” Jasmine Jan, senior with multiple AP classes, said.
To examine this rising issue, The Bull’s Eye staff investigated how students at DBHS are being affected by what many consider to be a tiresome ordeal.
According to a Bull’s Eye poll that surveyed 100 students from each grade level, Diamond Bar students sleep an average of about 6.1 hours per night. However, these types of statistics are not just limited to the DB campus. Sleep deprivation in students is a major problem in the United States and is only growing more rampant. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, although recommended teenage sleep is eight and a half to nine and half hours, seniors reportedly get less than seven on average. Moreover, 28 percent of high school students report falling asleep at school at least once a week, while one in five said they fell asleep doing homework with similar frequency.
At adolescence, sleep patterns also change significantly due to the body’s delay in secretion of melatonin, a hormone indicating when it is time for the body to sleep. Therefore, it takes longer for adolescent brains to calm down and fall asleep than it does for people in other stages of life.
“This research indicates that the average teenager in today’s society has difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. and is best suited to wake up at 8 a.m. or later,” the American Academy of Pediatrics statement said.
In the University of Michigan’s annual “Monitoring the Future” national surveys of youth behavior, 300,000 teens were asked in 1991-2012 surveys if they received at least seven hours of sleep per night. In 2012, over half of the surveyed 15 to 19 year-olds reported not sleeping the seven hours. There was a drastic drop amongst 15 year-olds; over 50 percent in 1991 slept at least seven hours in comparison to the less than 43 percent in 2012. The reports improved for younger teens but worsened for older ones. There were claims that increasing use of social media, smartphones and other electronics, and rising rates of obesity, and early school start times played a role in the lack of sleep.
“It sabotages your attention capacity during the day definitely. I’m a caffeine addict now. If you only can concentrate 80 percent of the time then you’re still losing that 20 percent of important information so you have to study on your own time and as a result, lose even more sleep. It’s an uphill cycle that once you get on is very hard to get off of,” said DBHS senior Sabrina Liang about the negative effects of lacking sleep.
The AAP also reported that the average U.S. teenager regularly experience sleepiness levels similar to those of people with sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Overall, sleep deprivation has numerous consequences towards health and daily life. A lack of sleep affects mood, attention span, memory, behavior control, and can lead to depression, poor grades, and learning difficulties. More drastically, deficiency in sleep can even cause death and injury due to the higher risk of car accidents due to drowsy driving.
“I feel like sleep deprivation is a problem because students fall asleep in class due to the lack of sleep,” Timothy Young, a freshman involved in many clubs such as debate, stated. “Some students can’t sleep the whole night because the homework load is too much and they fall asleep in class to make up the lost sleep. The teachers find it rude and wrongly punish them for it. Sleep is essential to work properly and it’s like being drunk when you’re sleepy.”
Many other students had similar complaints. Junior Rebecca Wang stated that she only slept four to six hours a night for the past two years, claiming that sleep-deprivation takes away from her ability to pay attention and stay awake in class. Through Facebook, Andy Shin, a junior with four advanced courses and a club officer position, discussed that he often falls asleep during fourth and fifth period, adding that this issue has been affecting his grades.
On the other hand, some students see sleep deprivation as a necessity so that they can spend more time participating in enjoyable activities.
“If we follow medical standards and achieve eight hours of sleep every day, it means we waste a third of our lives in the unconscious state…I’m more than willing to sacrifice sleep to do something that I love doing,” Chen, who usually gets six hours of sleep per night during the Robotics season, said via Facebook. “I’ve spent nights sleeping 2 or 3 hours after deviating from the schedule because I was practicing programming…you wake up feeling like a deranged banshee the next morning but it’s all worth it.”
Students are not the only ones who have raised concerns about the widespread sleep deficiency. Stacey Woodward, the DBHS psychologist, acknowledged the problem.
“If you’re deprived of sleep on occasion, your body and your mind can recuperate from that. What I see that is very concerning to me is students that are sleep deprived for an entire school year or seniors that have been sleep deprived for four years. That can result in some very significant long-term consequences, both medically and psychologically,” she said.
Consequently, a reported 23 percent of students at Diamond Bar regularly falls asleep in class. Though some teachers choose to condone students sleeping in class, others have policies against sleeping that vary in severity.
“We have work to do in class,” English teacher Daniel Roubian said. “Sleep deprivation is a problem among teenagers—I think it’s a big problem. But sleeping in class isn’t the answer.”
Roubian also claimed that technology is part of the problem, creating distractions for students and preventing them from finishing their work until late.
“I think it’s a combination in our world today, of the different electronics you have–like I mentioned, social media, Internet, video games, et cetera–interrupting homework, and then a full load of homework. So you combine those two and teenagers aren’t getting the rest they need,” he explained.
Sonja Burns, the GLC for the Class of 2015, also commented on how often students are sent to her office for sleep-related incidents.
“We do receive referrals for students sleeping in class but not as often as you probably think. I am sure teachers try to change the behavior before they are sent to us,” Burns said. She also explained that one of the main causes is that students take on too much of a workload and need to better balance how many advanced courses they take in addition to their extracurricular activities.
“For the past 2 years, I’ve been getting about 4-6 hours of sleep each day on school days. This amount has definitely been affecting how I perform in school, as sleep-deprivation is taking away from my ability to pay attention and stay awake in class,” junior Rebecca Wang said via Facebook. “I think this is a legitimate concern as it causes students to not be able to absorb all necessary information from classes and takes away our ability to function.”