How to Finish all Your Homework and Still Get Enough Sleep
Too often I see teenagers walking around in a daze, rubbing their eyes or staring off into space. Some drink gigantic buckets of coffee to hypercaffeinate themselves in order to stay awake for classes. They're awake, all right, but too jittery to sit still and concentrate.
What these teens (and probably you, too!) have in common is sleep deprivation. They are over-scheduled, and they underestimate the importance of sleep for daily functioning. There is a very straightforward two-part solution to this problem, but it takes dedication and courage to implement: first, treat school as seriously as you would a paying job; second, make sleep your number two priority, with a mandatory bedtime every school night. Try it for a month and see how much easier school is when you have enough time for both homework and sleep!
Why Do We Need to Sleep?
Teens and young adults need 8½ to 9 hours of sleep every night. Without enough sleep, terrible things happen to your body and mind:
- slower response times (in class, in sports, and even when you're driving)
- difficulty concentrating
- feeling depressed and anxious (It may not be hormones or just "being a teenager" — you may feel oodles better sim ply by getting enough sleep!)
- slower metabolism and greater likelihood of overeating junk food
- increases stress, which can in turn bring on acne or leave you open to illness
Getting enough sleep will make you feel better, be more alert in class and coordinated at sports, and help keep you healthy. It's a win all around!
Treat School Like Your Job
Going to school is your job. You do it five days a week, for seven or eight hours a day. Then you come home to several more hours of work. This sucks; we all know it. But right now, school is the most important thing in your life, and you have to make it your number one priority. That means homework should come first when you get home from school: before TV, or texting your friends, or even extracurriculars like sports or a part-time job.
Dedicating yourself to school isn't easy, but the rewards are great. With enough focus, you'll make better grades, have less stress about exams and homework, gain confidence and pride in yourself, and bring joy to your parents and teachers.
Make Sleep Your Number-Two Priority
After school and homework, sleep should be your top priority if you are having trouble balancing your time. Schedule yourself an early bedtime, and stick with it. This is countercultural for teenagers, but at your age you still need 8½ to 9 hours of sleep a night.
That means if school starts at 7:30 and you need an hour to get ready, eat breakfast and get there on time, then you should be going to bed no later than 10 P.M. Insane, right? But try it for a few nights, and see how amazing it feels to be well-rested in the morning. Even if you're not a morning person (most teens aren't!), getting enough sleep will make a huge difference in the way you feel, think, and act.
How to Handle Chores and Extracurricular Activities
Aside from the ribbing you'll take from your friends when you stop answering texts after 10 at night, there are some other practical considerations. You probably have chores or other responsibilities at home, such as minding younger siblings. Or you may have a part-time job, or be on the football team, glee club, yearbook, and student government. Following this plan will mean you'll have to make some tough decisions.
- For chores around the house: Explain to your parents that you are going to try an experiment involving doing all your homework first thing and going to sleep at 10 P.M. every night. Chances are they will be so thrilled that they'll give you at least a temporary pass on some chores until you get yourself into a routine.
- For a part-time job: Talk to your boss and see if you can switch your schedule to weekends only if you really need the money (e.g., to save for college or to help your parents financially). If you don't really need the money (e.g., you just use the money for blowout shopping trips for name-brand clothes), consider quitting or seriously curtailing your hours.
- For extracurricular school activities: This may well be the hardest choice you'll have to make. If possible, take a month's leave from your activities (this may not be possible with sports, but you can try to schedule the start of your new homework/sleep plan during the off-season). After you've been focusing on homework and sleep for a month, you'll have an idea of how much time is left in your day for extracurriculars. You may need to drop from four activities to two, or take a less-active role in some. If you're really dedicated to one activity, drop all the others so that you have time to devote to that activity without losing sleep.
Keep Your Experiment Going
After a few weeks or a month, you should be seeing definite results. Your homework is done on time and well, and your grades on tests are good. You can go the whole day without caffeine, and your eyes aren't puffy in the mornings anymore. Your home life is more pleasant since you're not irritable all the time. Success!
Add back activities one at a time, making sure that you still have time to get your work done and get to bed early. See your friends on weekends instead of on school nights. Who knows — they may be so inspired by your transformation that they try it themselves!