Sleeping Early vs. Staying Up Late: The Eternal Debate
By Christian Chung
It’s certainly no question that teenagers need more sleep. Not getting enough shut-eye is an issue constantly pointed out to us by the adults in our lives, even when we’re more than aware of it ourselves. On the other hand, sleep often just doesn’t seem achievable, due to how much homework we as students receive on a nightly basis. With all of the assignments, tests, quizzes, and exams that pile up as the days progress, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to finish everything--not to mention the incredible stress that comes with trying to juggle between a social life, extracurriculars, and, especially as the high school years go on, thinking about college. This is the rationale that most students use when they defend pulling late-night study sprees, sacrificing sleep in favor of doing a couple more practice problems, memorizing those formulas, or reading through the text one more time. Despite this, your lack of sleep is likely much more detrimental than you might want to believe.
It sounds pretty stereotypical to say that a lack of sleep will make you function worse. Even as you read this, you may be thinking to yourself about how you’re going to have to stay up late tonight, in order to study for that test tomorrow. In reality, staying up late undos virtually all the progress you make during those late-night sessions, and more. According to a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, sleep is essential for internalizing memories, and deprivation can lead to inability to recall what you read in front of you. A different study by the National Sleep Foundation showed that sleeping is the key to retaining things learned, shifting new knowledge to more “permanent brain regions”. This means that while late-night cramming may earn you some extra points during your 2nd-period test, by the end of the school day you’ll have forgotten nearly everything. This makes it extremely difficult to learn new material based on material covered in the past--with constant cramming and sleepless nights, everything seems to be something you never learned in class. Not getting enough sleep results in not only worse memory, but also causes, as stated in an article by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, “problems with attention, decision making, reaction time, and creativity”, all of which stump academic prowess even more. Memory and knowledge retention aren’t the only things that are at risk when you decide to take those extra 2 hours late at night to study, though.
There is a volatile cocktail of negative effects that occur with sleep deprivation, such as weight gain, concentration problems, and even depression/suicidal tendencies. According to a National Sleep Foundation study, even one night of poor sleep triggers aggressive behavior, inhibited ability to listen and solve problems, unhealthy eating habits, and increased proneness to illness. Other research illustrates a negative cycle between unhappiness and insufficient rest. Sleeplessness frequently leads to feeling depressed, which in turn leads to trouble sleeping. This underlines how prolonged trouble sleeping causes an accumulation of the emotional and physiological problems you suffer from, often to an overwhelming point. In fact, an analysis conducted last year by Stanford Medicine shows that just two consecutive nights of six hours of sleep or less can impair cognitive and physical ability “for the following six days”. It’s clear that sleep deprivation damages not only mental capacity, but your physical wellbeing, too, and with lasting consequences.
These negative effects of sleep deprivation are practically common knowledge now. From neurology professors at Harvard to TIME magazine articles to the dozens of organizations dedicated to researching sleep, one thing has been unconditionally agreed upon: sleep is a necessity, and students like us aren’t getting enough of it. Our behavior leads to worse and worse drawbacks, the effects compounding with each day we stay up even a little bit later. So when it comes to deciding whether to call it a night or go over that study guide one more time, keep in mind how much sleep you’re sacrificing: that one hour of sleep will make for vital grade points you gain in the long run, and, above all else, your body’s health.