The Harmful Effects of Sleep Deprivation in High School

Growing competition between high school students has lead to higher percentages of students who are experiencing sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts or actions.

Middle School was easy for me, school started later, classes were easier and didn’t have as big of an impact on your future as long as you made sure to practice good study habits and retain most of the information you were taught. Once my life as a high school student took off; and I began to get settled into all of my classes. I got the overall feel of this new life, yet I was still scrambling to get myself to school by 7:30 am versus the 9:15 am start time I had gotten used to over the last few school years. About halfway through sophomore year my few AP classes and other accelerated ones had overwhelmed me and lowered my morale to a point of which seemed to have no return. I struggled through my sophomore year finishing with some of the worst grades that I have ever received. I even quit the track track team about halfway through my second varsity season because I was so overwhelmed and stressed out about these bad grades that I thought were going to prevent me from being accepted into college.

The first few weeks of my junior year were a non issue, a low work load and no major tests or quizzes and I thought that the worst was behind me. About two weeks or so into the first quarter I had some major assignments and tests due the next day, I spent about 6 hours at a coffee shop, leaving exhausted and unaccomplished in my academic work I found myself crying and wanting to give up because I knew the year would only become more challenging. It was around this time is when the viscous cycle of sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress, and the feeling of complete and total defeat began to take its part in my life once again.


Just over 90 percent of High School students are sleep deprived, this means that less than 10 percent of High School students are getting an adequate amount of sleep per night. The other 90 percent that is not getting enough sleep has a higher risk of both minor and major health risks. Sleep isn’t optional, it isn’t for fun, sleep is something that is necessary for your body to “tend to your physical and mental health and getting you ready for another day.” (Healthline). After hearing that i’m sure it makes sense now why it can get dangerous when you try and survive off on minimal to no sleep. Health risks from sleep deprivation range from yawning and moodiness all the way to brain problems involving: hallucinations, memory problems, cognitive dysfunction, depression, and being more accident prone (Healthline).

Depression and Anxiety are ranked the two most common mental illnesses within High School students — sleep deprivation and anxiety work hand in hand to continue the previously mentioned vicious cycle spurring on a mental breakdown. To make things worse, about 80 percent of students experiencing depression and anxiety are not diagnosed or receiving proper treatment.


Today there is an abundance of stress on High School students, especially the ones who are taking all AP or IB classes (Highest difficulty, Meant to be college level, and IB requires many “internal Assessments” which are short essays) due to the heavier work loads and preparation for AP or IB exams in the spring (to receive college credit). Don’t get me wrong there can be just as much stress on students who are not participating in Higher level classes, but there is a significant difference in class curriculum. As a student in this generation there is so much competition when it comes to test scores, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, college acceptance, and then when you are finally done with school there is the stress of trying to find a job in such a competitive workforce due to more people getting college degrees now than ever before.

That is a major issue regarding competition within high schools, you can get grades that are above average and are higher up on the grading scale and yet there is a sense of being unaccomplished and a feeling that you are not trying hard enough. This is due to a decline in higher level college acceptance because now days there are more people applying for college.

“Sleep deprivation in students has been linked to lower GPAs because sleep affects concentration, memory and the ability to learn.” ( NAHIC, 2). When you’re in school and you are unable to concentrate on your classes because of exhaustion, you are not absorbing the information given to you in class; this leads to inability to homework, lower test scores, and more stress.

In 2006 the National Sleep Foundation’s sleep in America poll discovered that a large amount of adolescent students express feelings or moods of depression, which can lead to sleep deprivation. Results from this 2006 survey showed that about 46 percent of adolescents have low depressed mood, around 37 percent have a moderate depressed mood, and 17 percent of students have a highly depressed mood. That 17 percent of students that were experiencing higher depressive moods than the other students are more likely to experience sleep deprivation. Out of all the students about 73 percent of them reported to be getting less sleep than recommended and were experiencing excessive drowsiness during the day. Over 50 percent of these students reported to be overly worried, stressed out and anxious about school and the future. All of this information helped the National Sleep Foundation come to the conclusion that sleep deprivation has a serious effect on students mood, personally and just overall defeat and depression. Their solution was that students should be putting sleep first and get the recommended 8–10 hours a night to help “combat this vicious cycle” (National Sleep Foundation, 4)

Overall I agree with the concept of putting sleep first but when you have so much on your plate including academics and receiving good grades, preparation for standardized tests, college applications, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and maybe a part time job. All of that adds up and it makes it hard to put sleep before all of that because at this point of stress and anxiety sleep seems to be a waste of time.

Works Cited

“Children and Teens.” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

<https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children>.

@healthline. “Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body.” Healthline. N.p., 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

<www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body>.

“Teens and Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

<https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep/page/0/3>.

Richter, Ruthann. “Among Teens, Sleep Deprivation an Epidemic.” News Center. N.p., 08 Oct. 1970. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

<https://med.standord.edu/news/all-news/2015/10/among-teens-sleep-deprivation-is-an-epidemic.html>.

“Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents and Young Adults.” University of California, San Fransisco. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.

<nahic.ucsf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/sleep-Breif-FINAL.pdf>.

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