Why School is Unhealthy

"Magic School Bus" by Chris Betcher is licensed under Creative Commons.

A few weeks ago, I was trying to remember something that had happened to me during my freshman year of high school. But the longer I tried to remember the incident, the more I realized how fuzzy my memory of this incident was. I couldn’t picture when or where it happened or even with whom.

But this situation extends beyond just that single memory, I can hardly remember my freshman and sophomore years. However — plot twist — I remember my seventh and eighth grade years very vividly. So the question is, What happened after eighth grade?

My main theory is memory loss due to lack of proper sleep.

Memories have three different stages of function: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. An acquisition is when you learn and experience something. Consolidation is when the memory of that thing settles in your brain. And recall is when you reflect on that memory later in the future. Consolidation is the most important step in the memory-making process, and it can only be achieved through sleep.

When you sleep, your brain processes all the information from your day, creating memories. This process that requires a full night of sleep and every time that that’s not achieved, memories will become lost in the translation.

So, what is a full night of sleep? For teenagers, between 9 and 9.5 hours are recommended. I know from experience and anecdotal data: that recommendation is not met! The average amount of sleep that most teenagers get is 7 to 7.5 hours.

There has been a definite change in my sleep pattern since I’ve started high school. I get about 6 hours of sleep every night compared to 8 that I used to have. It’s no wonder that I’ve been having such a difficult time remembering things that have happened to me in the past few years. But memory isn’t the only thing that’s affected by the amount of sleep you get. 

Lack of sleep is linked to all sorts of health problems. A very concerning one is its effects on thinking and concentration. The less sleep you get, the more your concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills are worsened. The reason I’m particularly troubled by this is that school is supposed to be a place of education. Yet, by interfering with our sleeping schedules, it actually hinders our brain function.

Imagine if schools just started an hour later, allowing students to catch up on just a little bit more sleep. That could very well mean the difference between the F and a B.

Waking up at 5 or 6 a.m. holds us back from our full potential. It’s an absolute shame that we are being robbed of that — especially as grades become increasingly important for high schoolers trying to get into college.


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