No Rest for the Weary

Harry S Truman’s school day begins at 7:00 am and ends at 2:13 pm. Say you take an hour to get ready in the morning and fifteen minutes to get to school. Not accounting for variations in travel time or morning routine, you would have to get up at 5:45. In order to get nine hours of sleep, which is considered the minimum for high school students, getting up at 5:45 am would require you to go to bed at 8:45 pm. The average amount of time a person spends eating a day is 1 hour and 8 minutes, which takes us to 7:37 pm. The average amount of time a person spends showering is 8.2 minutes, and the average amount of time spent in the bathroom is 14.6 minutes daily. Now we’re at approximately 7:14 pm. The average American high school student spends a whooping 3.5 hours on homework every weeknight - which brings us to 3:44 pm. Let’s say your travel time to get back home from school is 30 minutes in the busy afternoon rush-hour, then that means that our remaining window of available time is from 2:43 pm to 3:44 pm. This leaves one hour to relax, spend time with family, and pursue personal interests and hobbies. But what about the fifty seven percent of students that participate in after-school extracurricular activities? How are they going to squeeze the extra three, four, or five hours into their schedules? Or how about the 22.3 percent of high schoolers that have jobs? How are they expected to adapt?

No one seems to sleep as much as they should - but why? Sleep is underrated in American society. We live in a world that doesn’t consider “hard-working” a true quality unless you’re running on adrenaline and three cups of coffee. We seem to believe that someone would have done better on a test if they’d fallen asleep leaning over their dining room table studying instead of going to bed at a rational time, but what we don’t seem to realize is that we cannot solve all of our problems by resorting to self-inflicted insomnia.

There’s a popular stigma about sleep. Throughout literature and ingrained in people’s minds is the idea that taking a nap indicates laziness and being well rested is a sign of sloth, when this is not at all true. Your brain performs many crucial functions while you aren’t awake, like cleaning out waste product and repairing damaged tissue. Did you know that the phrase “sleep on it” actually has factual context and that, when given time to rest, you can actually improve your memorization skills? Studies show that studying, then three hours of non-strenuous brain activity, then a complete sleep cycle, will result in a well-rested person who is much better at memorizing things and is much more open to receiving new information.

But how are you supposed to do all those things with the little time you have?

You probably can’t.

Like I said before, sleep is not valued. We take such a crucial part of life for granted and end up costing ourselves more time than what we believe we’re “losing.” How do we solve the problem? I honestly doubt that as many as a million factual articles could make the education system change its ways of hours of homework and early, early mornings, so I advise you to reconsider your personal life before you depend on the slow wheels of societal change to turn in your favor. My recommendation? Just go to sleep. Disregard the societal notion of laziness, pick yourself up by your pajama pants, and go take a nice nap.

Now, I know it’s easy for me to say that when I’m not aware of your responsibilities or situation. I, too, trade sleep for workload on a daily basis, but I know that whenever I get the opportunity to, I have to rest. So don’t see this as an excuse to skip your math homework or play hookie to take a nap, see it as a message to make you more aware of your health and the amount of time you allow yourself to rest.

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