Some days, I bet you’re absolutely exhausted — can’t-get-out-of-bed, just-five-more-minutes, drowsing-off-in-class exhausted.
No, scratch that. I bet it’s more accurate to say "most days."
Teens have a lot on their schedules. A long day of school starts early, and there’s a mountain of homework to complete every night. Sports schedules are particularly demanding and extracurricular activities are numerous. That’s before commitments to part-time jobs, family, friends, and a social life.
When I was a teenager, the first thing to go when I had a full schedule was often an hour or two of shut-eye. I’d study past midnight, mostly because the extracurricular activities I was doing often didn’t get me home until after dinner.
Like many of my classmates, I’d fall asleep the next day in first period while my pre-calculus teacher explained how to solve an equation (when I was tired, she sounded like one of the adults from a Peanuts cartoon). I’d sleep on the bus, or wait for my cue during the school play. I’d catch a few winks everywhere except for in my room at home.
That drowsy, cloudy feeling is often so normal for us that we don’t recognize it for what it really is: a loud, blaring signal that something is very wrong with how we’re living.
Did you know that sleep deprivation is actually considered a method of torture by the United Nations? Did you know that driving while drowsy is pretty much the same as driving drunk?
Sleep deprivation affects the way your brain functions, essentially making you dumber than you really are. It reduces your ability to concentrate, dulls your reasoning power, and fouls your mood. It kills your creativity and makes it harder for you to remember things that should be easy to recall, such as what your teacher taught the previous day in class or what homework you had the night before.
It doesn’t really matter how late you stay up studying if your brain is too tired to remember anything.
To ensure a visit from the sandman, cut the caffeine. Coffee works to keep you awake, but having enough of it in your system will bar your body from getting adequate rest. If you’re getting enough sleep at night, you won’t need a morning jolt.
Wind down with a nightly ritual. You might remember your mom or dad doing the same exact thing with you every night when you were younger: helping you take a bath, reading you a story, or saying a prayer together.
The same applies now that you’re older: make some tea, read a book, listen to music and have some "me time" for a half-hour before turning out the lights.
Speaking of lights, shut off your electronic devices before you go to bed. White light from phones, laptops and televisions tricks your brain into thinking that it’s daytime, encouraging your body to stay awake. This isn’t too great when you’re trying to get some rest.
Exercise during the day. If you’re on a sports team, run a little more or lift a few more weights. If you don’t consider yourself athletic, think about stepping up your routine by walking, running or just moving around a little more. The more energy you expend during the day, the easier it is going to be to fill up your batteries at night.
Don’t torture yourself by keeping yourself awake when what you really need to do is sleep. I think you will find it amazing when you see what you can do when you’re rested and ready to go.
Osborne is a columnist for Catholic News Service.