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Column: High hopes and expectations of a college freshman

I’ve never been a morning person. When I was in elementary school and with my mom for the week, I’d have to wake up early because she had an early job. Sometimes I’d go to early morning clubhouse at school, but on lucky days, I could sleep for a bit longer at my dad’s house. Even though school started earlier and earlier as I moved up in grade, I wanted to stay up later. I never changed these habits. Since I’ve started college, though, I’m no longer punished for them.

My high school started at 7:30 a.m. then switched to 8:15 a.m. my junior year, 2017. Though the district hoped this change would boost attendance and sleep for students, 45 minutes barely made a dent in my sleep schedule. It would take me an hour to fall asleep on school nights and I got the urge to go to bed around 1 a.m. So, even if I fell asleep right away, I would only get about six hours of sleep. Some students would wake up even earlier.

According to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, teenagers need between nine and nine-and-a-half hours of sleep for optimal cognitive functioning. Without this, teenagers can have deregulated moods, decreased academic ability and increased risky behavior. My lack of sleep most affected my mood. During my senior year of high school, I would wake up immediately angry and, as my friends and I would often term it, “not wanting to have to be a person.”      

I couldn’t control my urge to stay up late, nor can a lot of other teenagers. The Nationwide Children’s Hospital states that a natural change in circadian rhythm hits after puberty, causing teens to want to stay up about two hours later in the night. The irony is that school starts earlier as teens get older, essentially trapping many in an inefficient sleep schedule. This doesn’t even consider homework, club or sport obligations.

I would say that I am fortunate with my college schedule. Currently, the earliest I need to wake up is 8:30 a.m., while on Tuesdays and Thursdays I sleep in till 9:30 a.m. This still gives me 15 minutes to wake up, 15 minutes to do my morning routine and about an hour to eat breakfast and walk to class. Now, my staying up till 1 a.m. doesn’t mean losing as much sleep as I used to.

I still don’t get the recommended nine hours of sleep, but this one to two hour shift has led to a significant decrease in my previously regular morning thoughts of anger and suicide. This is something I only thought possible in my dreams during my high school sleep schedule. If I want to stay up late with friends because I get a second wind at midnight, want to catch up on YouTube or suddenly have a desire to do arts and crafts, I no longer have to worry about this night owl urge hurting me the next morning.