How lack of sleep is affecting students


Natalia Stewart, Reporter

After staying up all night to study for your finals and finish your essay, it’s already time to get ready for school. Despite feeling accomplished, once you get to school, you can’t focus, you don’t understand the material, you struggle to remember information, you feel frustrated, and everything seems so confusing. Could it have been that sleepless night causing you to feel this way?

As it turns out, yes! Your lack of sleep is affecting your whole day, and more specifically your brain. Sleep is so important because major functions occur when you sleep and when students don’t get enough sleep, it affects their mood, memory and other cognitive skills. And, in the long term, it could affect their learning ability, grades, and mental health.

“There are so many biological factors that happen at night in terms of cell repair and even in the brain there is something called neural pruning that helps you condense memories and be more efficient,” says Ms. Klimowicz, a science teacher at NYC iSchool.

Ed Young from The Scientist reports that neural pruning or synaptic pruning is an incredibly important process that happens throughout adolescence and early adulthood and mostly at night. During this process, immune cells called microglia get rid of extra synapses. This process helps the brain to become more efficient and to strengthen the connection of the already productive synapses.

Something else that is important to note is that sleep deprivation or partial sleep deprivation can impact your mood. According to a Harvard Article, “Sleep and Mood”, a study by the University of Pennsylvania showed that test subjects who were given only 4.5 hours of sleep per night for a week reported stress, anger, sadness and mental exhaustion. But once the subjects were allowed to go back to a normal sleep schedule, their moods were drastically revamped.            

Nina Rivas, a freshman at NYC iSchool, said that when she doesn’t get enough sleep,“It makes me unhappy and makes my day worse.”    

Along with this, when not given enough sleep it is very difficult for the brain to focus because it affects our selective attention. Selective attention is the process in which the body responds to one certain stimulus while it occurs with others at the same time; in other words, it’s our ability to focus on one thing while other things are happening simultaneously.

An article published by LiveScience says that a study was conducted where the experimental group was given no sleep for 24 hours and the control group was told to sleep as normal. The next day the test subjects were instructed to listen to two stories at a time, one in each ear, and to be selectively attentive to one. Those test subjects in the second group had a much easier time in doing this than those in the experimental group.

Classrooms are filled with distractions and without that ability to selectively focus on one thing, like the teacher teaching or independent work, it makes it extremely difficult for you to learn and be productive, which is exactly why it is crucial for students to obtain a good amount of sleep.

Lack of sleep has also been associated with school performance. As said by Reuters, “Each night of the week that college students have sleep problems was associated with a 0.02-point drop in their cumulative grade point average (GPA) and 10 percent higher odds that they would drop a course.” 

Reuters also said that sleep has a greater effect on college freshmen than drugs and alcohol ,and it has a greater effect than an abusive relationship for upperclassmen.

Also statistics from the University of Minnesota prove that hours of sleep are positively correlated with GPA and there is “a significant negative correlation between average number of days per week that students obtained less than five hours of sleep and GPA.”

Without proper sleep, students struggle in school and lack the necessities to keep their grades up. 

Sleep deficiency has also been correlated with emotional disturbance and ADHD. As stated by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, each extra hour that a student receives on a school night gives them a lower chance of qualifying in the clinically significant range for ADHD and emotional disturbances by 25 percent and 34 percent.

On top of that, getting less sleep gives you a greater chance of developing clinical depression or anxiety. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “people with insomnia have greater levels of depression and anxiety than those who sleep normally. They are 10 times as likely to have clinical depression and 17 times as likely to have clinical anxiety. The more a person experiences insomnia and the more frequently they wake at night as a result, the higher the chances of developing depression.”

This information from the National Sleep Foundation shows that frequently waking up at night or having trouble sleeping can take a tremendous toll on one’s mental health.

There are many things that we can do to make sure students are getting a proper amount of sleep. One of those things is creating later school start times, like we have here at the NYC iSchool.

“We are really lucky here at the iSchool because we start later than most schools, we have a 9 am start time, where as I would say a majority of highschools start around 8 a.m. and so I do think our later start time does help a lot,” says Ms. Klimowicz.

The New York Times reported that a study done by the University of Minnesota surveyed various students with different start times and discovered that those with later start times slept more. 

The CDC says that to help students get enough sleep to stay healthy, schools should not start school before 8:30  a.m. But, as of 2012, 42 states reported that 75%-100% of their schools started before 8:30 a.m.

Adolescents are at such an important time in their lives where getting the right amount of sleep is critical in establishing good brain health and habits. Next time you decide to pull an all nighter, maybe think about how it could seriously affect you the next day, and how it could affect you in the long term.