Sleep Needs Differ Among Students


According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average teenager needs nine or more hours of sleep every night.  Unfortunately, this is not possible for most high school students.

William Hoese, junior, feels the effects of a demanding high school schedule.  “I’m taking a ridiculous amount of AP classes this semester, and I’m also doing cross country.  I have absolutely no time for anything.  My life is crazy.”

During teenage years, the body undergoes a change in the circadian rhythm, an internal biological clock.  As a result, teens tend to fall asleep and wake up later.

Along with the body’s biological changes, high school students face some of the most hectic times in their life.  Schoolwork, sports, extracurricular activities and jobs all deprive teens of potential sleep time.

Knowing that the nine plus hours of sleep is virtually impossible, most high school students may have to deviate from recommendations and modify their sleeping patterns, the obvious step being to sleep less.

After years of hearing about need for more sleep, the statement may sound paradoxical:  sleep less, do more.

There are five stages in a regular sleep cycle, the most important being stage five, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.  During REM sleep, the body absorbs the daytime learnings.  Rapid eye movements take place and dreaming occurs.  Studies have shown that being deprived of REM sleep can lead to daytime difficulties, trouble concentrating and drowsiness.

The body usually takes one to two hours to enter REM sleep.  REM sleep lasts for about three to four hours after that.  However, some people train themselves to begin REM sleep faster than usual.  This allows them to enjoy a deeper sleep in a shorter period.

“I know how some people can only sleep for four or five hours and still be full of energy,” said Hoese.  “Maybe they spark something in their brain to recharge them or something.  Anyway, I would love to be able to function with only four hours of sleep.”

Polyphasic sleep refers to sleeping multiple times a day in twenty minute intervals.  These people train themselves and adapt their bodies to hit REM sleep within twenty minutes.  Reducing the time spent of sleep will force the body to enter REM quicker and leave sooner.

Matthew Conrad, freshmen, attempted polyphasic sleep over the past summer.  “I wanted to do something to prepare for high school.  I felt like a zombie.  It was amazing, but I failed.  I’m sure if I tried harder, though, I would have been able to accomplish polyphasic sleep.”

Some of the most accomplished humans in history would agree that sleeping less led to their success.  Leonardo Da Vinci stayed awake almost twenty two hours a day to work on artworks and inventions.  Thomas Jefferson, considered by many a polyphasic sleeper, slept only two hours daily.  Thomas Edison slept for less than five hours a day, and he sometimes slept for no hours while working in his lab, stating that sleep was a sign of laziness. 

Sir Isaac Newton needed no more than four hours of sleep whenever he was “struck by an amazing thought.”  Napoleon Bonaparte slept for four deep hours of sleep and was always energized when he fought in battle.  Benjamin Franklin, in his quest for moral perfection, also slept for only four hours every night, according to some sources.

Sleeping less may not be a good strategy for everyone, though. 

Absence of sleep can lead to weight changes, usually weight gain.  Hormone levels become imbalanced; the body can feel full when it is empty or hungry when it is not.  Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to severe mood swings, emotional breakdowns and frustration.

Along with physical and emotional differences, sleep deprivation can lead to a slow deterioration of the immune system, making the body more susceptible to injuries and diseases, such as the common cold.

Calvin Coolidge had to sleep for eight hours a night and another two or three hours in the afternoon.  Albert Einstein slept ten hours a night because he believed that dreams refreshed the mind and helped him invent. 

“I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to sleep less than I do already,” admitted Hoese.  “But sometimes I just have to force myself to stay up at night to finish my school work.  I think it just depends on what type of person you are to see if you can sleep less to finish all your work.


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