“Caffeine culture” impacts high school students

April 10, 2019

Walking through the halls of Edina High School, one of the most common phrases passed between students is “I’m so tired.” Students do not get the sleep that they need, leading to fighting exhaustion with high levels of caffeine. Unfortunately, there is a prevalent culture of believing that it is “cool” to get less sleep than the body needs.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between eight and ten hours of sleep each night for peak performance. Recent studies have found that only 15% of teens report getting eight and a half hours of sleep or more on school nights. This percentage has not always been so low. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the amount of sleep that teenagers get has seen a steep decline in the past 20 years.

In Edina, it is considered the norm to be exhausted. In fact, students talk about how tired they are wherever they go. “Nobody gets enough sleep in high school. It is just normal,” senior Jackson Mollet said. Because students know that everyone around them is not getting enough sleep, it is easy to feel like getting a full night’s rest is not that important.

With this normalization of exhaustion, students purposely put sleep as a lesser priority compared to activities and school. In a competitive school like Edina, students feel like they have to be a part of many activities, maintain their grades, and have active social lives. With so many hats to juggle, sleep falls to the wayside in order for students to focus on academics and extracurriculars.

According to NBC News, “[experts] say that the pressures of schoolwork, social life, sports or other activities — combined with a relentless media culture — mean that young people may be more tense than ever before.” The fact that high schoolers are more stressed than in the past directly leads to constant exhaustion.

“I feel like we are given a lot of homework. A lot of schools have that but especially at Edina….We do a lot of sports and after-school activities, so we are all really stressed. The more stressed you are the less sleep you can get. It’s just really competitive,” senior Bella McCormick said.

In a society that thinks it is cool to not get enough sleep, many students turn to coffee or other caffeinated drinks to help them power through each day. Adolescents are among the fastest growing group of caffeine drinkers, with more and more high schoolers reaching the point where coffee is needed in order to wake up in the morning. “I have to have some sort of something in the morning to keep me awake… I replace [breakfast] with coffee because then I have enough energy for the day and I don’t have to waste my time making breakfast,” McCormick said.

In a competitive environment like the one at Edina, students have packed schedules and perfectionistic mindsets. Being so busy tied with a culture that normalizes being tired has led to a generation of exhausted teenagers who are becoming increasingly reliant on caffeine to keep themselves awake.

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