Lately, my daughter Amanda, 16, can’t seem to stay awake in school. This semester seems to be particularly sleep-inducing. This is probably due to a number of factors, such as too much homework, answering facebook-messages from her fan club of guys, watching two hours of The Bachelorette and having to plan out the next day’s outfit. But the most important factor is that she doesn’t go to bed until 2:00 am or later. Duh. I’ve preached the obvious connection between going to bed earlier and being able to keep both eyes open during class. This doesn’t do any good. It’s like talking to a bleary-eyed zombie with a brain so underdeveloped that she can’t possibly comprehend this sleep cycle connection.
She tells me that everyone is asleep in class. At any given time, she can look around her Chemistry class and see 3 guys snoring on the back row, 4 girls drooling on their binders, and even the teacher looks suspiciously unconscious sitting behind his computer. It’s an epidemic of sleep depravation. She says that getting enough sleep is an unrealistic expectation of a high school student, and that they are just too busy to sleep. Plus, if you had to listen to droning lectures all afternoon, your mind would fall into a trance-like zombified sleep state as well:
Chemistry Teacher: “And so, class, the electric field (E) is non-zero, and is constant in time, the field is said to be an electrostatic field. Similarly, if only the magnetic field (B) is non-zero and is constant in time, the field is said to be a magnetostatic field. However, if either the electric or magnetic field has a time-dependence, then both fields must be considered together as a coupled electromagnetic field using Maxwell’s equations.”
OK, you got me there. I would definitely fall into REM sleep mode. Or, if I’d had eight hours of decent sleep the night before, I might just have the energy to run screaming from the room. Or maybe shoot myself. I don’t know, so many choices.
Homework is the biggest reason high school students don’t sleep. The other night, Amanda had 3 hours of World History homework, 2 hours of Algebra II, a chemistry test to study for, and an essay to write. This is a typical night for her. It’s insanely ridiculous. I’m pretty sure – based on spy reports provided by Fox News – that Obama’s not even working this hard, plus he gets regular vacations, long holidays, and enjoys relaxing golf on the weekends. My high school student, on the other hand, has piles of homework on the weekends, every single weekend, and even on holidays. I thought the teen years were supposed to be about having fun with your friends? Wrong! The Nazis on the school board make sure NO kid is having fun. Ever. We have to keep up with the Chinese, for goodness sake!
So, since Amanda is not likely to get any additional sleep, despite my preaching to the contrary, then I’ve got to come up with some effective ways for her, and all the other semi-conscious high school students out there, to stay awake. Because when you fall asleep in class, you will miss out on vital information that you’ll never need to know to get a job in the future, such as the symbol for Krypton on the periodic table of elements, how to make a potato battery, or the inverse of the function ƒ(x)= 15/x. With my 25+ years in the workforce, I can say with 100% certainty, that I have never, ever needed any of those things to perform my job. And yet I’m still a high-functioning adult (despite what my teenagers think). Go figure. No don’t, that would just be more homework.
Thus, in an effort to help her stay awake, I’ve compiled 4 useful tips that I’m sure will work effectively:
You need to get your adrenaline pumping to help you stay awake. OK, sure, you are sitting at a desk, so you are going to have to get creative. Pick up those 400-lb textbooks that you carry around and start doing some bicep curls. Lift your knees up and down in your chair Usher-style on The Voice. Frantically wave your arms around like a lunatic, or get up and jog to the pencil sharpener and back. Sure, your classmates will think you’re a mental patient, but hey, most of them won’t even notice because they’re asleep.
2. Use a Water Bottle.
To stay awake in class, you can use a water bottle in many fun and useful ways. Pour the water directly on top of your head, drenching yourself enough to be incredibly uncomfortable, thus making it impossible to fall asleep. And BONUS, you will look like you peed on yourself, which is just embarrassing enough to draw plenty of negative comments, which in turn, is sure to keep you awake. Or you could take large, thirsty gulps of your water bottle throughout the day, causing lots of air to build up in your stomach. This should result in one or both of these desired effects – either loud disgusting burps, and/or really annoying hiccups. Neither of which you could possibly sleep through. And finally, pour a large puddle of water directly onto your desk. Strategically place your head directly above it. When your head starts to fall forward into the puddle, the splashing sound should rouse you awake. This one comes with a small risk, though, because if you are extremely tired, you could possibly drown. But, hey, that’s pretty rare.
3. Eat Something Food-like.
Call me a stickler, but I think actual food is necessary to function. Instead of blow-drying your bangs for the third time, and then running out the door without eating breakfast, maybe you should try eating some kind of edible nutrition that could possibly keep you from blacking out. I really don’t think that eating that hearty, nutritious meal at lunchtime from the school cafeteria is going to make up for actual food either. I’m pretty sure that today’s cafeteria special, Honey Roasted Pork Parts provided as a service from the American Cholesterol Grower’s Association, is going to keep you alert and awake for the rest of the school day. If anything, you can count on a food-induced coma after that meal.
4. Shout Out Embarrassing Things
This is another way to get your adrenaline pumping. Remember that your adrenaline kicks in when you are facing a dangerous or panic-ridden situation, such as when you discover your cell phone just died, or your best friend is making out with your Ex in study hall, or your English essay fell out of your torn binder in the lunch room. So why not harness this power to stay awake in class? Practice until you become an expert at shouting out embarrassing things at random, Tourettes-style, such as “I haven’t taken a shower in three days!” or “Hey, remember the time I barfed on myself in Texas History?” or “Does anyone have an extra pair of underwear I could borrow?” When your exhausted and overtired brain suddenly realizes what you’ve just shouted, the shock of embarrassment should be enough to keep you awake at least until the next class.
Hopefully, Amanda will have some success staying awake in class with at least one of these techniques. Here’s an encouraging thought: Summer is just two weeks away. Which means, you can sleep until noon every single day, in effort to make up for all that lost sleep this year. It also means that you can tell that evil AP World History teacher, who gave you ungodly amounts of fun-killing homework this year, where she can stick it. And for kicks, maybe you can get all of your friends together, assuming they are awake, and have some real fun this Summer, but please, nothing that involves Krypton or potato batteries. Ahhh, you gotta love Summer.