We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.
Regardless if you’re in elementary school or earning a graduate degree, most students aren’t getting the sleep they need to achieve at their highest.
However, prioritizing sleep cannot fall by the wayside as it influences every aspect of a student’s life. It is critical to identify the most typical reasons students don’t get enough sleep to help them thrive.
1. They’re Taking on Too Much
A job, social life, schoolwork, sports, clubs and hobbies are not even scratching the surface of all subjects taking up a student’s mental space. The prospect of having a schedule bursting at the seams may be enough of a stressor to keep a student up at night.
Some professionals refer to this as overprogramming — it’s natural for parents, students and even teachers to unintentionally pressure students to enrich themselves with as many opportunities as possible. But sometimes, this isn’t the most beneficial option when they need sleep and downtime.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) could add an extra layer to this complication. A student may be aware their classmates are in clubs or going to parties. The FOMO then burdens students, causing everything from alcohol-related behaviors to insufficient motivation. These effects branching from an unrealistically busy schedule cause students to sleep poorly.
2. Mental Health Disturbances
Sleeping too little — and even too much — reflect mental or emotional distress in students. Plenty of students needing guidance aren’t receiving the help they need. As parents, teachers and caretakers, they can suggest resources to students. Many schools offer programs to provide assistance for services or even offer them free.
More than 65% of students today lack sleep because of mental health causes. If left untreated, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses may not be managed appropriately by learners, affecting the trajectory of their educational and professional futures.
3. Social Media and Screens
An unhealthy attachment to social media causes many stressors in students that affect sleep. Comparison spirals, engaging in interpersonal drama or dreading global events are just some of the unfavorable side effects of connectivity. The consequences of all this stress range from heart issues, hypertension and emotional distress.
This encumbers students, resulting in inconsistent rest or sleep disorders like insomnia. The disruption caused by screens and blue light throws off circadian rhythms and creates even more health issues for students down the road.
The impacts of relying too much on screens could worsen attention spans and increase the need for instant gratification. This further harms students’ abilities to healthily balance educational and sleep obligations.
4. Caffeine Intake is Too High
To compensate for sleep deprivation, students try supplementing with caffeine. Coffee, energy drinks, teas, you name it — there are many ways for students to get energized. Around 86% of students consume caffeine, most not knowing the amount in their drinks.
On top of anxiety and irritability, the cyclical effect of sleep deprivation and caffeine is neverending. Sleep deprivation entices students to drink caffeine, which causes even worse sleep deprivation.
The best way to change this habit is to create caffeine cut-off times. It is not necessary to eliminate it. However, that may work best for some students who rely on caffeine to survive a lecture.
5. It’s in Their Biology
Most younger students experience involuntary interruptions in their sleep cycles. Hormones greatly influence the quality of sleep. Changes in melatonin production occur in teens, causing them to feel more awake at times they should be tired.
Many advocate for schools to have later start times to accommodate this involuntary biological occurrence. Tired students do not comprehend as effectively, and this decrease in morale can have plenty of other adverse effects that aggravate sleep.
6. Their Environment Isn’t Suited for Sleep
How well is the temperature regulated at night? Does the student have a comfortable pillow? Is there a disrupting amount of light entering the room in the morning?
All of these influences and more are straightforward adjustments to make to enhance sleep. The environment also includes more than the plushness of the bed — their sleep schedule could be wildly inconsistent, intermixed with poorly timed naps. Their home life could involve lots of confrontation or fighting between parents.
Environmental influence encompasses many elements, all of which require consideration for helping sleep deprivation. Fixing one aspect may help, but making environmental shifts over time is like compound interest — it adds up exponentially, getting more optimized with each improvement.
Well-Rested Students Succeed
Students may feel it’s easy to neglect sleep in lieu of other pursuits. Staying out late with friends or taking an extra shift is enticing now. Still, the effects on health and educational performance are not worth the sacrifice.
Knowing these sleep deprivation causes will clarify warning signs and solutions to fix the issue’s roots. In the end, hopefully, students will have a better night’s sleep.