Feeling Overwhelmed? Follow a Senior’s Advice: Just Sleep on It

The Southerner

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By Grayson Fuller

My flip phone’s alarm blares from across the room, and my eyes crack open. They ache, and even though my mom’s told me not to, I rub them to appease the pain. I feel guilty. It’s my fault they hurt—I should have gone to bed earlier.

Sleep and I have a curious relationship. My mom remembers the days when I woke up before she and my father did—how as a 2-year-old I learned to relish sunlight and hate the inactivity of sleep. I remember elementary school and the notorious 9 p.m. bedtime my mom imposed on my sister and me—a bedtime that stalked us until seventh grade. Once I was a more mature middle schooler, our bedtime relaxed somewhat to give us enough wiggle room to allow for our increasing amounts of homework and our decreasing enthusiasm for it. And in my underclassman years of high school—before AP classes, orchestra and The Southerner—it relaxed even further. My parents still got mad when I stayed up late, but even then I never went to sleep after midnight.

Now that I’m a senior in high school, driven insane by AP classes, violin practice and the newspaper, I’ve given sleep the middle finger. It’s rare that I go to bed before midnight, and I often wake up at 5 a.m. to finish homework. The circles under my eyes have darkened, and my father swears my lack of sleep has stunted my growth. Made paranoid by his spook tactic, I looked up sleep deprivation on WebMD to see what would really happen to me. Apparently, it can cause other, less superficial health problems: poor memory, stroke, heart attack, ADD, obesity and, worst of all, “poor quality of life” (WebMD is harsh). It may seem like my self-injury is justified, since I’m doing so much stuff. But no, to be so honest it hurts, I really don’t have that much to do. Being able to say I take six AP classes sounds good, but I have far less homework than it might seem. There are some nights when Ms. Obeidin gives too many chemical reactions to predict, Mr. Nichols too many functions to differentiate and Mr. Hill too many chords to analyze, but generally I could probably finish all of my homework in less than two hours a day.

So why don’t I? Well, I get distracted, but my worst crime is procrastination—that old hackneyed plague which infects everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation or how nosy your parents are. So I get it. Starting the work can be harder than the work itself. But consider what happens to me: my teacher assigns a reasonable amount of homework. I write it down, I get home, I waste my time, and I don’t get started until 10 p.m. The next day I complain to the entire student body about how teachers are crazy for assigning so much homework, when in fact, it was more than doable. I just didn’t do it.

I’ve also found working late at night utterly unproductive. I was doing a chemistry assignment a few nights ago, but I was way too sleepy. I figured out the answer to a problem, but as I tried to write it down, I fell half-asleep and began to dream. Then my dream got mixed with the answer I had in my head, and right before my barely conscious eyes, a jumble of nonsense made its way onto my paper. I erased the evidence of my lack of lucidity and had to do the problem all over again. If this were daytime, it would’ve been easy, but because it was so late at night, it took thrice as long to solve what should’ve been a no-brainer. Moreover, because I stayed up through the night to finish that assignment, I had trouble staying awake throughout the day—missing lectures and notes in my best efforts to appear awake while napping.

There have been times I was so sleep-deprived, even I could tell it was affecting my mental health. A few months ago I was working late into the night on an essay for lit and I started to daydream. Out of nowhere, I saw one of my friends materialize in my peripheral vision. I looked over to him, but then he disappeared. I knew then it was time for bed.

I’m now in the process of changing my ways in a homemade sleep rehab. Just last night I had to memorize the dreadful solubility rules of chemistry, do an oxidation worksheet, work on a calculus problem set and answer 21 questions about a poem. I thought about what I had to do, and then I continued to think and think and think until more than an hour passed. Once it became 11:30 p.m. and I had only finished analyzing the poem, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I set my alarm for 6 a.m. to finish in the morning. With a full night’s rest on my side, I finished everything else within an hour and a half. And as a recovering anti-sleep addict, I can tell you sleep is good. It makes you grow, it makes you healthy, and it keeps you sane. You deserve some. So hit the hay, catch some Z’s, get some shut eye or whichever idiom you wish. Just please get some sleep, for my sake.

This story earned a Superior rating in the Commentary category at the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Awards Assembly on April 28, 2011.

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