A to Zzzzz: Medical experts share thoughts on sleep deprivation, recommendations for students

Ifrah Sayyada, Staff Writer

You were up all night studying for the big test you have the next day.

You’re on the brink of an A — 89.3 percent — and you need this test.

The stress is eating you from the inside out.

When you are finally done and start getting into your bed, your alarm starts ringing.

Time for school.

Children’s Mercy sleep specialist Teresa Schneider said sleep deprivation can affect a student’s quality of life.

“Lack of sleep can cause moodiness, irritability, slowing of your thought processes and difficulty with memory,” Schneider said.

Blue Valley nurse Jennifer Runyan said if students don’t get enough sleep, it affects their performance at school.

“I think students don’t get enough sleep because they are working on homework,” Runyan said. “They have tons of extracurricular activities that keep them extremely busy.”

Senior Erin Rambo swims for BV, and she said sports can also cause sleep deprivation in students.

“It affects my sleep, especially during [the BV swim] season because we get up for practice at 5:30 a.m., and we spend a whole day at school,” Rambo said. “[After school], we practice, and I’ll get home around 7 [each night]. Then, I have around two hours of homework, which means I don’t get to sleep until around 9 p.m.”

Runyan suggests sleep-deprived students turn off electronic devices to get the sleep they need. She said technology distracts students and keeps them up during the night texting friends, working on the computer or playing video games.

Schneider advises sleep-deprived teenagers get to bed early enough to have nine to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep each night.

“If you are sleep-deprived, you should not think that you can make that up by sleeping extra on the weekends,” Schneider said. “The best thing to do is to get up at the same time every day. Be sure to get in bed early enough to get the needed sleep.”

Although you are supposed to get nine to ten hours of sleep, Rambo said it’s sometimes impossible to fit those hours into her schedule.

“I do take naps during the day,” she said. “I try not to sleep during class, but sometimes I just have to because I’m so tired. Occasionally, I leave during study hall or a class I know I can make up during the day, and I can go home and sleep for a little bit.”

Because of the importance of sleep, Runyan said she tries to help students who are sleep-deprived when she can.

“I do let some students lay down,” she said. “It depends a lot on what class they’re in, especially if they’re in a study hall. I try not to let people take advantage of that, but if they’re not feeling well, sometimes just 20 to 30 minutes laying down can really make a big difference for the rest of their day.”

Rambo said busy students must balance sleep and school.

“I would suggest not falling behind in your schoolwork because it’s important to stay caught up but also try and get as much sleep as you can,” Rambo said. “I suggest definitely taking study halls during your season if you are in a sport because that helps you a lot. Maybe going to sleep earlier or even just sleeping in [will also help].”

Schneider said she believes some changes in the timing of school would also help students who are sleep-deprived.

“I would really love to see schools shift the start times to 9 a.m. for teenagers,” Schneider said. “It would work better with their body clocks because teenagers have a natural change in their body rhythms that makes them sleepy later in the evening. If school districts would make these changes, it would probably improve test scores and make the students happy at the same time.”