Shelly Nielsen sees students fall asleep in class at least twice a week. “When I see teens asleep in my class, I wonder if I’m really that boring,” said Nielsen, a Springfield Lanphier High School special education teacher. “I also wonder why they’re so tired.” According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, teens need at least nine hours of sleep to function properly during the day. And according to a recent study, more than 90 percent of teens say they are sleeping less than that each night.
Shelly Nielsen sees students fall asleep in class at least twice a week.
“When I see teens asleep in my class, I wonder if I’m really that boring,” said Nielsen, a Lanphier High School special education teacher. “I also wonder why they’re so tired.”
Nielsen first tries to wake up sleeping students quietly. If the snoozing continues, she may call a student’s parents to find out how much sleep the student is getting at night and why.
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, teens need at least nine hours of sleep to function properly during the day. And according to a recent study, more than 90 percent of teens say they are sleeping less than that each night. Ten percent of teens are sleeping less than six hours a night, according to the same study.
Anna Wonnell, a 14-year-old freshman at Lutheran High school, gets about six hours of sleep a night and that’s “just fine for her.”
Anna said she’s never tired at school and for the most part feels great. But sometimes, after school, she gets sleepy and forgets to do her homework.
Forgetting assignments, yawning in class, losing concentration — these are the signs of a sleep-deprived student, said Dr. Carl Lawyer, a specialist in internal medicine and pulmonology at Physicians Group Associates in Springfield.
“The big problem is the social demand for homework, video games and friends,” Lawyer said.
“Teens don’t understand how important sleep is.”
Rebecca Lucas, an aide at Christ the King School in Springfield, agrees.
“Teens are busy,” she said, noting many activities most teens are involved in during the day force them to get home pretty late.
“When I see teens sleeping in my class, I feel sad, like they’re not sleeping enough,” she said.
“I also feel frustrated because I have so much to teach in such a short amount of time and teens sleeping in class slows me down.”
But what happens when teens don’t, or even worse, can’t sleep?
In some people, the body starts shutting down. Sleep is just as important as food, according to the National Sleep Foundation, and the body does not operate properly when it doesn’t get enough rest.
Not sleeping the needed number of hours can affect your day immensely, Lawyer said. The effect is on school, work and driving and is very frustrating to teachers when students don’t do their best because of being so tired, he said.
Al Taylor, a health teacher Virden High School says sleeping is not allowed in his class — so seeing snoring teens happens only a few times per semester.
“When I see a teen sleeping in my class, I feel bad that they didn’t get enough sleep but they need to correct the issue at home,” Taylor said. “I’ve raised teenage boys myself. Teenagers like to wait to the last minute to do their homework so they often stay up late trying to finish it.”
Kaylee Sharp is the exception. The 14-year-old freshman at Southeast High School says she gets about eight hours of sleep a night, and that she is “never tired in school because I get a good night’s sleep.”
Kaylee says she gets A’s and B’s because she pays attention in class and is wide awake.
Danielle Draper is a freshman at Springfield Southeast High School and a correspondent for Voice, the State Journal-Register's teen publication.