Imua 'Iolani

563 Kamoku Street

Honolulu, Hawai'i

Sleep Debt

November 22, 2017



At ‘Iolani School, students sluggishly walking around school, boasting their scanty three hours of sleep, is a common sight. ‘Iolani students, who are heavily involved with extracurricular activities and rigorous classes, cannot always prioritize sleep during the school week. Instead, students typically sleep very few hours during the week, telling themselves that they can sleep longer on the weekend to make up for their lack of sleep. However, this method is not actually effective for students, and should not be so relied upon.

The process of sleep is not commonly known, even though it is a part of everyone's lives. When a person is awake, the chemical adenosine builds up in their body. While sleeping, the body breaks down the chemical. However, when a person is sleep-deprived, adenosine builds up in their bloodstream, making them feel tired. Sleep deprivation has many negative effects, such as a much longer reaction time, worsened vision, and trouble remembering. In fact, these effects surely play a part in the over 100,000 car crashes caused by sleep deprivation every year. Teenagers need a minimum of eight hours a sleep each night, but a National Sleep Foundation study found that only fifteen percent of teenagers reported sleeping 8.5 hours on school nights. If a sleep-deprived person can’t even focus enough to drive a car, how can they supposed to focus enough to learn in school?

With their busy schedules, ‘Iolani students are notorious for putting off sleep until the weekend. They tell themselves that they can sleep in on the weekend to make up for their lack of sleep during the week. One flaw to this mentality is that sleeping in on weekends only throws off the body’s internal sleep cycle. However, the main problem with this solution is that it causes a sleep debt which is usually too big to make up with a few extra hours of sleep on the weekend. A sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep one should be getting and amount they actually get. For example, if someone sleeps for four hours a night during the school week, they have a sleep debt of twenty hours that they have to make up for, in order to reach the optimal eight hour minimum a night. In reality, students are far too busy with homework and weekend extracurriculars to sleep in for that long on the weekend, which means that they rarely make up their sleep debt.

While it may seems nearly impossible to get more sleep during the week, there are a few subtle, yet attainable ways that students can reduce their lack of sleep. suggests sleeping just a little bit longer each night- say, fifteen minutes- which will lower one’s sleep debt. Although adding on hours a night can be hard to achieve, a few extra minutes can be added on by simply eliminating time spent on a phone or watching Television. By getting more sleep and lowering their sleep debt, students will surely see positive differences throughout their school days.

Megan Tagami ‘19, who sleeps for about the recommended 8 hours, said, “I am able to stay focused and alert in my classes throughout the day when I get this much amount of sleep at night and I don’t tend to usually “crash” at any point in the day.” Sleep is a very important part of a student's life, so it’s worth a try for them to work towards eliminating it as much as they can.


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