8 hours of sleep a night? Is it even possible?

I am one of the countless teenagers in the United States who struggle to get a good night’s sleep in the midst of school, sports, and life in general. Between my class schedule, tiring practices, and finishing my day off with 2 to 5 hours of homework that I start around 8 pm, I am getting well below the recommended hours of sleep that a teen should get. Side note: if you are a busy student athlete, and you still manage to get 8 hours of sleep each night, please contact me ASAP because I would love to learn how you accomplish this Herculean task.

In an effort to understand the impact of my sleep schedule versus the suggested amount of sleep, I decided to keep a log of my sleep for 2 weeks of school (Monday through Thursday nights). In the first week I got the suggested amount of sleep by going to bed by 10 pm and waking up at 6 am. In the second week second week I stayed up until all of my homework was completely finished. In this two-week period, my real goal was to see if I could work efficiently at school, get all of my work done, and still be in bed by 10 pm.

During the first week of my study, I worked as hard as I could at school to complete my assignments and gave myself around 2 ½ to 3 hours to do more work at home in order to be in bed by 10 o’clock. The first night I did this (the Tuesday after Marathon Monday), I was completely restless when I got into my warm and plush bed. I could not force myself to sleep, so I tried multiple things like 1) counting sheep, 2) reading a part of a Nancy Drew novel that I haven’t touched since the 4th grade, and 3) writing multiple lists of things I needed to accomplish the next day and for the rest of the week. I finally fell asleep around 11 (still an early bedtime for me). The next morning I woke up and felt pretty rested, but only due to my required medicinal cup of coffee. The next night I fell asleep a little after 10 pm, but then the next morning I slept through both my alarms. I woke to my parents yelling at me to start being a responsible almost-adult. I was extremely tired all throughout Thursday and was longing for my bed.

So, after attempting to get the suggested 8 hours of sleep for the first week, I moved back to my regular sleep schedule in the second week. It was not pretty. Each night I was exhausted after coming home from practice to accomplish long hours of homework ahead. Although it had only been a week since I change my schedule, I could really feel the difference in the lack of sleep in comparison to the previous week. It seriously felt like a never-ending cycle of waking up, going to school, going to practice, doing homework, and finally sprawling myself across my bed around 1:30 or 2 in the morning.

Once the weekend came around, all I thought about was catching up on my sleep, even though says that one actually can’t catch up on sleep. However, I found that when I wanted to go to bed early, I couldn’t because I was not used to falling asleep at 10 pm.

After concluding my not-so-scientific study, I have realized a couple of things. I have learned that you have to build up a habit of going to bed at a certain time. I have also learned that going to bed at 10 pm every night is not realistic with my schedule. For the first week, although I was getting more sleep, I was more stressed out about trying to go to bed at a certain time than being efficient in studying. After switching back to my regular schedule, I was very exhausted each day because I was consistently getting 2-3 hours less of sleep than I had the week before.

For both weeks I was pretty stressed because in the first week, while I was getting more sleep, I was rushing through assignments just to finish them in order to be in bed by 10 p.m. On the other hand, I was stressed during the second week because I felt more tired than usual since I had to adjust back to my regular schedule after getting a week of fairly good sleep the week before.

While my sleep schedule is not recommended, it works for me because I am able to get all my work done without rushing through and worrying about assignments I have not finished. Getting 8 hours of sleep while managing other factors in one’s life may not be realistic. Also, without having 3 nights on the weekend to make up for lost sleep, I do not know how I would be surviving high school. Finally, if you have a sleep habit, you should stick to it and not meander off into various sleep patterns, even if it’s just an experiment.

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