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To Sleep or Not to Sleep

Sleep. We know that it’s important, but it’s one of those things that we generally allow to slip away from us. Studies are showing that this has severe effects, both physically and mentally, from a weakened immune system to even anxiety and depression. But what’s wrong with drinking a little extra coffee the next morning? Let’s look at the statistics.


According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, sleep deprivation causes the following:

  • 50% increased risk for obesity

  • 33% increased risk for dementia

  • 48% increased risk for heart disease

  • 36% increased risk for colorectal cancer

  • 3x increased risk for a cold

  • 3x increased risk for Type 2 Diabetes

  • Increased risk for high blood pressure, depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and fuzzy thinking

  • Increased craving for starchy, salty, and sweet food

  • Ages your brain 3-5 years

  • 6,000 fatal car crashes per year from drowsy driving

  • 1 in 25 adults falling asleep at the wheel in a month


The CDC recommends the following amounts of sleep each night, depending on your age:

- 4-12 months: 12-16 hours

- 1-2 years: 11-14 hours

- 3-5 years: 10-13 hours

- 6-12 years: 9-12 hours

- 13-18 years: 8-10 hours

- 18-60 years: 7+ hours

- 61-64 years: 7-9 hours

- 65+ years: 7-8 hours


While the recommended amount of sleep decreases as we age, students, especially high schoolers, will often not meet the recommended hours. In fact, 7/10 high schoolers do not get 8-10 hours of sleep, according to a blog from Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. A recent Nationwide Children’s Hospital article says that teenagers get 7-7.25 hours of sleep per night. Despite being aware of the consequences, why do we continue to push ourselves to stay awake and get things done? There are various reasons for this.


The biological clocks of teenagers make sleeping before 11 PM difficult. However, because of school, they still need to wake up early and don’t get the required hours of sleep. This creates a routine in which they are tired throughout the week and oversleep over the weekend, which disrupts the cycle. Students (especially high schoolers and college students) may receive significant homework from school. With extracurricular activities beyond school work, students often have late nights to accomplish the tasks.


What are some things we can do moving forward to ensure we are getting all the needed hours of sleep? Most importantly, we must make sleep a priority. Here are Mayo Clinic’s 6 tips for doing so:

1. Sleep schedule- consistent bedtimes and wake-up times; consistent number of hours

2. Controlled food/drink intake- avoid sleeping on a stuffed or empty stomach; avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, especially before bedtime

3. Restful environment- avoid exposure to light (especially from electronic devices); create a comfortable setting

4. Limited naps- avoid naps longer than an hour, especially later in the day

5. Physical activity- exercise regularly; avoid exercise right before bed; spend time outside

6. Stress management- journaling, meditation, prioritization


Know that making a lasting change to your sleep schedule is easier said than done. There will be some nights where it simply doesn’t work out. However, it is important to keep the end goal in sight and to realize the importance of a good night’s sleep. Good luck!



Did you know: Noor won the 2022 Breakthrough Junior Challenge for her work on connecting the impact of light interference, particularly from cell phones, to poor sleep outcomes? Check out her project and award here!


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