Night Owls, Morning Birds, and Afternoon Pigeons
January 7, 2021
We all have that one friend that we secretly wonder if they’re actually human. You know, the one that gets five hours of sleep and comes to school like, “Well, better than normal!” That psychopath. For those people reading this, you might be thinking pfft, five hours? I can function on three. Or like Junior Maddie Ganzer says, “Sleep is for the weak”. Incorrect. Sleep has a very vital role in your health, both mental and physical. No, you psychopaths, you aren’t ‘fine’. You are playing with your health which is NOT what you want to be doing right now.
The CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says this, “The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has recommended that teenagers aged 13–18 years should sleep 8–10 hours per 24 hours.” You want to know what happens if you don’t get enough sleep? You die. Well, you can. The more common symptoms you may recognize include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, attention and behavior issues, obesity, diabetes, impaired judgement (more than usual anyways) and a higher chance of getting sick if you’re exposed to a virus (hint hint). Yet the CDC’s study shows 72.7% of high school students don’t get enough sleep on school nights. Now don’t get me wrong, we teenagers aren’t the only ones to blame. This is why online learning may be beneficial to some of us.
It’s actually a largely accepted fact that teenagers shouldn’t wake up before 7 AM. However, people’s circadian rhythm does have some variation from person to person. You have the night owls, morning birds, ADHD spazzes, and noon pigeons. Some people naturally have a different rhythm. Back when we were a bunch of hunter/gatherers someone needed to take the night watch so we didn’t get eaten. Teenagers specifically tend to go to sleep later than adults around 10pm-12am and wake up later about 8am-10am consequently. So with online learning, we can sleep in a little later. This is not an excuse to go to bed at 4am, a consistent sleep schedule goes hand in hand with a healthy one.
There are a ton of reasons you might have trouble sleeping, but there are also a ton of ways to help. Try to avoid caffeine, eating and exercising right before going to bed. Recreational drugs and alcohol are also probably not good things to do before bed. To help fall asleep you might want to try taking melatonin, drinking tea/warm milk, light yoga, and having a good environment will help. Sometimes sleep has to take priority. Not that you should skip your morning classes….. But maybe look into going to bed earlier or other alternatives. There’s a fine line between productivity and sleep deprivation and teenagers are known to fall off the edge of it sometimes. You aren’t going to be any good in class if you’re so tired you fall asleep anyway because you finished all the homework last night at 3AM. It’s important to find balance. “Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear.”― Kung Fu Panda. If you want your mind to settle you need sleep.
With most of modern science evolving, our understanding of sleep is evolving as well. We know why it’s important, and how much we should be getting. There is an ocean of controversial studies offering different ideas of what the ideal sleep schedule should be, and even some new studies on something called short sleepers, where due to a genetic gene mutation a small portion of the population needs only 4-6 hours of sleep to function the way the rest of us do on 8-10. Crazy really. Your sleep schedule is important, and something you should probably prioritize more since without it you are more prone to basically every illness out there. So you should try working on getting enough sleep, on the times that work for you.