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Burton High Stories: Sleep Deprivation

Fiona, a senior at Burton High School in the Academy of Health Science
Fiona, a senior at Burton High School in the Academy of Health Science

Students studying health sciences at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School in San Francisco worked with KALW radio to share their perspectives on health issues and solutions. Fiona, a high school senior, talked about an issue she's noticed with a lot of her peers: not getting enough sleep.

Hi, my name is Fiona. I’m a senior at Burton High School in the Academy of Health Science.

I have always had trouble sleeping, but it wasn't until I entered high school that it seemed to become worse. I noticed how some nights I just could not seem to fall asleep even though my body felt so tired and drained. When I spoke to my friends about sleeping, they shared similar experiences. It felt like it was a universal experience amongst us high schoolers; how we couldn’t seem to fall asleep as early as we used to, or how we were kept up all night with homework that some of us didn’t even bother going to sleep at all.

When a teenager shows signs of being sleep deprived, it is common for their grades to start slipping or for them to fall asleep during class. We can even became more irritated and prone to aggression.

So during my senior year of high school, I started research focusing on sleep deprivation amongst teenagers. I found out that teenagers undergo a shift in their circadian rhythms that are responsible for our sleeping habits. The circadian rhythm is the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. In short, it’s our body’s internal clock. This shift causes our melatonin production to begin around 11 pm, 3 hours later, which is why it feels like we can’t fall asleep as early as we used to.

While it is difficult to get schools to push back start times, there are other tips to aid in forming healthy sleeping patterns and habits.

It’s important to set boundaries with yourself that make sleeping a priority, such as getting into bed earlier to influence the body to sleep, and avoiding interferences like bright lights and electronics. By taking steps to address the impact that sleep deprivation has, it allows us all to form better relationships with our bodies and needs.