Saved by the Belle – I need sleep, and I think you do too

I’m told that I am an awful human being when I don’t get enough sleep. It’s as if the amount of time I am unconscious determines whether I’m Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde-and I don’t want to be Hyde.

Needless to say, my parents don’t want that either, and that’s why, at almost 18 years old, I still have a bedtime. 

It’s embarrassing, and not exactly something I like to brag about, but I follow it. I put my phone downstairs every weeknight at 9 o’clock, and try to be asleep by 10:00.

No matter how childish it feels, I follow that ‘bedtime’, not just because my parents enforce it, but because not getting enough sleep stresses me out. Even the thought of not being well-rested churns my stomach. 

So whenever I hear people talk about how late they stayed up studying, or about the all-nighters they pull, my stomach gets knotted and my breathing irregular. My brain races with thoughts about what would happen to me if I was in their situation. 

It sounds a little something like this: “School is important, but so is sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, then I’ll have trouble waking up in the morning, I’ll be grumpy throughout the day and be really snappy and irritable. No one will like me. No one will want to talk to me. I won’t have enough energy to do anything. I’’l be so tired that I’ll want to go to bed earlier, but I’ll have stuff to do so I can’t, and then I stay up past the time when my body wants to sleep, and then I’ll get a second wind, and I won’t be able to fall asleep when I’m supposed to, and then my sleep schedule is ruined forever”

A sleep schedule being ruined forever, while not exactly realistic, is a very serious problem, so it’s easy to see why I get so worked up over this. Scientifically, teenagers are supposed to get around eight hours of sleep a night. Sleep promotes growth and memory formation, as well as neural connection. 

While all of these things are important, I think that the thing we need most right now that sleep provides is the time to decompress. 

When I hear people talk about the reasons they pulled an all nighter, it’s usually because they had other things going on during the day that prevented them from doing homework or studying earlier. Things like practices, games, rehearsals. It’s all so go-go-go. 

I do firmly believe in getting involved, but I also believe in pausing, in taking time to just exist. However, I know that people can’t just quit prior commitments, or control the amount of homework they have. 

Despite this, maybe we can still make the effort to sleep, and let not just our bodies rest, but our minds too.