Sleep Advice from Two High Schoolers Who Don’t Sleep

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Luca Antonio Colannino and Chloe Min

“Sleep Advice from Two High Schoolers Who Don’t Sleep? Take a Number” first appeared in the spring 2020 print edition of The Communiqué. To view the edition in full, please click here.

The two of us love catching each other at our 3AM time window to play GamePigeon.

As high schoolers, we think it’s safe to say that we’re all aware of how important sleep is to our health and wellbeing. But few of us actually take this into consideration when approaching our own sleep schedules. For the two of us, with vastly different sleep routines and problematic habits, it’s important to identify our own faults regarding how we choose to manage our health in regards to rest.

Most teens can relate to finding it difficult to fall asleep right away, probably because biological sleep patterns shift towards later hours for both sleeping and waking during our teenage years. In simple terms, it is natural for individuals our age to find themselves unable to fall asleep before 11pm. Although teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best, only 15% of us, according to the National Sleep Foundation, report 8.5 hours of sleep on school nights. 

On that note, it is also very important to consider how sleep schedules fluctuate throughout the week. Teenagers are notorious for staying up late and sleeping in on the   weekends, which might sound like fun, but in the grand scheme of things, can severely affect the quality of sleep during the workweek. Done on a regular basis, such a schedule may cause teens to suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia. We often joke about being insomniacs on social media with timestamps past 3am, but the hard truth is that this can actually develop into a serious problem, which is why it is crucial to not underestimate the mental and physical effects of sleep deprivation.

Not getting enough sleep can limit your ability to learn and may even impair memory. The phrase “beauty sleep” exists for good reason — a lack of sleep makes you more prone to breakouts and other skin problems. From personal experience, we found that one can become very aggressive and increasingly impatient with a greater lack of rest, prompting an increase in caffeine consumption (another teen phenomenon that can be so detrimental to our health).

There was a time during my junior year where I got such little sleep that I was drinking 30 oz of black coffee before 10 am. Even though I was bouncing off the walls, I became addicted to caffeine and I craved the feeling from it over the dreariness that came with my bad sleep schedule.”

— Luca

For me, I was quick to board the high school caffeine addiction train almost immediately after my sophomore year. Within two years, what began as a harmless pick-me-up turned into a complete necessity for me each day. I convinced myself that drinking multiple cups of coffee could actually replace the lost hours of sleep I would get each night, yet I would sit in class dozing off and with my hands shaking uncontrollably. Even now, I find myself being completely unable to go to sleep any earlier than 2-3:00AM, leading to an unfortunate reliance on Dunkin and Starbucks runs and 2 hour naps after school.”

— Chloe

We can go on and on about the consequences of a bad sleep schedule, but ultimately, only you have the power to fix these issues. The most essential part of tackling an inconsistent sleep schedule is committing to a routine. If you force yourself to go to sleep each night before a certain hour or reduce the amount of caffeine you drink, you’ll be more likely to fall into healthier rest habits.

But if this is too drastic of a change for you, there are a handful of other steps you can take to get on the right track.

First, try and take naps. Note, however, that naps are risky because while they can help pick you up and make you work more efficiently, they have to be planned correctly. If a nap is too long or too close to bedtime, it can actually make you more tired or more likely to stay up later at night. According to Sleep.org, just 20 minutes of rest is all you need to feel recharged and alert.  

Next, make your room a sleep sanctuary! As cheesy as it sounds, keeping your room cool, quiet, and dark as the day winds down promotes better sleep. If you need to, you can even get eyeshades or blackout curtains. From personal experience, the use of a weighted blanket and apps such as “Calm” helps with falling asleep more quickly and has proven to keep tons of users asleep throughout the night. 

Finally, when you hear your friends bragging about their all-nighters, don’t get pulled in and instead tell them how good you feel from getting the best 8 hours of sleep the night before.