New poll reveals students not getting enough sleep

By Andy Seifert

Many college students may have mastered the art of going through the day without much sleep, but their high school counterparts are not too far behind.

A new poll from the National Sleep Foundation on the sleep patterns of adolescents found that many students were not getting the recommended daily night’s rest, causing negative consequences.

The poll found that at least once a week, 22 percent of high school students fell asleep in class, and 14 percent missed or were late to school because they overslept. The study also showed a correlation between unhappy students and a lack of sleep.

David Lawrance, medical director at McKinley Health Center, said the problem applies to all people in general.

“I think that it is a big enough issue that everyone can relate to it at least some of the time,” he said. “Supposedly, it is a bigger issue in young adults than it is in middle-aged adults.”

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One disturbing trend the poll found was that a large number of adolescents were driving while drowsy. Fifty-one percent of adolescent drivers admitted to drowsy driving at least once during the past year.

“It is the second leading cause of car accidents,” Lawrance said. “It impairs quality of life. That’s why people see their health care providers.”

Another trend the poll found was as adolescents get older, their bedtimes steadily became later, yet the awake time stayed mostly the same.

The average bedtime of sixth graders was 9:24 p.m., and the average wake time was 6:42 a.m. Students six-years older in 12th grade reported an average bedtime of 11:02 p.m. and an average wake time of 6:31 a.m.

An overwhelming 72 percent of 12th grade students said they do not get enough sleep to feel their best during the day.

Reagan Darner, sophomore in LAS, said the reason she does not get enough sleep is because of a heavy workload, a problem that arises more often in college than high school.

“When I was in high school, I couldn’t understand why people stayed up so late,” Darner said, whose bedtime is now 2:30 a.m. “Now though, you almost have to stay up late because the homework on some nights is just incredible.”

She added that one week she was up till 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. on consecutive nights.

The poll also suggested sleep-deprived adolescents feel the consequences the next day. Those who did not get enough sleep reported feeling too tired or sleepy, being cranky or irritable, falling asleep in school, having a depressed mood, and drinking caffeinated beverages.

“I yell a lot at my boyfriend,” Darner said of days when she did not get enough sleep. “I’m much more indifferent to what people say.”

During the poll, adolescents seemed to even recognize their own failure to get enough sleep. Seventy-eight percent of adolescents said they need at least eight hours of sleep to feel their best during the day, but only 51 percent actually reported getting eight hours or more of sleep on school nights.

Only 20 percent of adolescents reported getting the optimal amount of sleep each night – nine or more hours.

Those getting the optimal amount of sleep also reported getting better grades in school and felt less depressed than their counterparts.