Sleep Deprivation Devastates Student Health

By Emily Preble

Jesuit High School, Jesuit Crusaders

Heavy-eyes, grogginess, lack of energy—on the surface, the side effects of sleep deprivation seem temporary and remediable. Recent science, however, offers that a chronic lack of sleep can reap long-term consequences on both mental and physical health. With the pressures that exist in today’s school system, what does this mean for sleepy students?

According to “Nurture Shock” co-authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, sleep loss inhibits the brain’s ability to extract glucose from the bloodstream. This cuts off a main source of energy that leads to the prefrontal cortex. Located just behind the forehead, the prefrontal cortex enables the brain to predict outcomes, orchestrate thoughts to fulfill a goal, and perceive consequences of actions.

If a student is battling with a lack of sleep, his or her tired prefrontal cortex allows the body to succumb to impulses, placing studying and other abstract goals to the bottom of the priority list.

“When I’m super tired, it becomes twice as hard to focus,” senior Claire Lucas said. “I find myself procrastinating and digging myself a deeper hole when it comes to how much [sleep] I get the next night.”

Lucas’ case is not uncommon. Most students with a pattern of severe sleep deprivation have found themselves underachieving in the classroom. Though there are many elements that contribute to a loss of sleep, a common constituent is the amount of daily homework students receive.

“With the AP and honors classes I take, I end up getting less sleep than a lot of my friends,” Dylan Johnson, ’16, said. “Homework takes away from my sleep and actually affects how I function in school.”

The challenge of juggling homework and sleep is not a new one. The difference this year, however, originates from the addition of iPads. For a Jesuit student a year ago, (aside from the occasional essay or research paper) homework was done mainly on paper. Now, the common textbook has been replaced with the brightly light screen of an iPad Air.

The paper-to-screen swap can have devastating repercussions on the sleeping pattern of Jesuit students.

The work of Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute proved that a mere two hours of iPad use at maximum brightness was enough to suppress people’s normal nighttime release of melatonin, a key hormone in the body’s clock, or circadian system. While two hours of screen time may have been avoidable before, now every textbook and homework assignment on the iPad makes exposure to the light emission is inescapable.

“Up until this year, the advice that I gave my students and their parents on back- to-school night was ‘do your homework that’s computer-based first, and then move to your book homework.’,” Ms. Mathes said. “Now, I can’t really do that.

Before implementing the 1-1 program, Administrators were aware of the affect iPad screens have on student sleeping patterns.

“One reason the English Dept. chose to stay with paperbacks (and Theology with paper Bibles) is to combat the issue of [light emission].”said Principal Hogan.

Shortcomings found in the early stages of iPad use call staff and administrators to monitor how students are acclimating to the new technology.

Originally published on www.Jesuitcrusader.org

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (www.wantnewsforteens.com).

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