In the need of ‘Z’s

Society undervalues sleep


Photo by Sydney Rowe

Many students struggle balancing the necessity of sleep with the concerns of the waking world.

Story by Stephanie Jumper, Editor-in-Chief

Darkness is filled with nothing but the glow of flickering street lights and the occasional owl or squirrel soaking in the silence. Stores are spotless and closed until sunset. Most people should have been tucked in bed for several hours. Yet, millions are still rubbing their eyes awake with no signs of allowing their bodies to rest anytime soon.

Society has developed an aversion towards sleep. It starts with children whining about naptime in preschool. Many 3 to 5-year-olds will squirm, sing, talk or do anything except nap during naptime. Children’s defiance over sleep sounds strange to adult ears, but tiny humans’ reasons behind their whines are fairly reasonable. They’ve had the least amount of time in the world. They have slides to slide, cookies to gobble and ABCs to recite. Sleeping sounds like a waste of time to them. 

As the years go by and suddenly you’ve entered adolescence, sleep becomes a different kind of uncool. Tired teenagers fall into two categories: the “too busy socializing all night to bother going to bed” and “too busy studying for an ‘A’ to catch up on ‘Z’s” kind of exhausted. One is seen as cool and reckless, and the other is seen as making a sacrifice that will repay them in shiny degrees and golden opportunities.

A couple years ago, I would consider myself the latter of those two tired teenage archetypes. The act of not sleeping due to studying, regardless of how many of these hours spent at my desk instead of on my bed actually improved my grades, made me feel productive. 

When I received a grade that wasn’t to my liking, I didn’t feel guilt or regret from not studying enough; I studied as much as my dreary eyes allowed me to. I could forgive myself for less than stellar grades if I could justify it by nearly nodding off during class. Even on days when homework was minimal, I would stay up until my eyes were too dry to resist closing. Something in me decided I didn’t deserve sleep.

Lack of sleep has become not only a means to study late or party hard but a way to self-punish. Sleep feels like the reward at the end of a long day, but it should be incorporated into everyone’s to-do lists. Someone restricting their food intake and eating half of the recommended calories a day causes concern. Cutting your sleeping schedule in half should prompt the same reaction. Every fruit or vegetable we shove down our throats in the name of health is just as vital to our bodies as every minute in bed. 

Forgetting sleep’s vitality to life is part of the world’s aversion to it. We feel like it’s a luxury after everything has been said and done, but it’s a necessity. 

Few things in life are worth an all-nighter. I’m not saying to abandon all responsibilities or any late night plans in order to get the perfect eight hours every night, but pick and choose your battles. There is usually no need to stay up until 4 a.m. studying for a test that you won’t take for a week.

If we were able to go back to preschool, where we were forced to take a nap and wake up to warm cookies and cold milk, we’d time travel back in a heartbeat. But now we don’t feel like we deserve to have a mid-afternoon nap. No matter what age we are, we never think we deserve sleep. Right now, it’s because of studying or social situations, but as we grow older it’ll become work or whatever our post high school lives take us. No matter what, resting will feel impossible, and no matter what, resting should develop into a daily goal for sleep-deprived citizens across the globe.