Without a doubt, Upper year requires sacrifices. Any student who has successfully (or unsuccessfully) passed through Andover can agree with this. Barring any superhuman abilities one may possess, it is impossible to do everything; being a tri-varsity athlete, the president of five clubs, and showing up to every single school dance, just isn’t realistic. Since we are in the process of trying to do everything, you encounter many conversations between Uppers that go like this:
“I need this coffee. I got four hours of sleep last night.”
This may seem like an unfair simplification, but I witnessed this conversation happen the very day I typed this out. Not to mention, with the average reported number of hours of sleep in the State of the Academy (SOTA) being 6.65, I doubt this is far from most students’ realities.
I then applaud myself, as I think back to my sleep tracker app which reported my achievement of getting 8 hours and 47 minutes of sleep the previous night. Most people who spend time with me can testify that I mention my sleep habits at least once, possibly even multiple times a day if they are being truly honest.
After I drop this earth shattering fact on my peers, I get asked the same question every time: Are you serious? Yes, and I believe it’s completely possible for others to do the same.
Many are skeptical, some are confused, but the most frustrating reaction is the judgment. Some people look at me as if I just completely dishonored the code of being an Andover Upper. There have been times where I’ve been told that I must not work hard enough, like that’s related to my healthy habit. Of course, this odd response does not make me stray from my ways of sleep, and in fact, motivates me to keep up this habit.
Not only has sleep been scientifically proven to improve learning, but also improves mood, energy, and overall health. A study done by Michigan State University showed that I feel qualified enough to validate this argument, as I have experimented with my sleep schedule on many occasions at this school. Junior year, I spent my time blatantly ignoring the school’s suggested sleeping schedule, and probably every medical professional’s in this country: 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Beautifully planned out — the ideal eight hours of rest every growing Andover student needs. I, at my very rebellious age, searched for a loophole to get all my homework done past lights out at 11:00 p.m. Looking back, I wasn’t a rebel, as I followed the bedtime set by my house counselors, except I woke up extremely early in the morning to compensate for any lost time. Obviously this plan failed. Besides the fact that I looked like I hadn’t gotten any sleep when I went to my classes, I physically felt that way as well. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep it up forever.
After my Junior year, I vowed to get back on track to living my best, energized life. I can’t say that I immediately saw any improvement, and in fact, I didn’t change my habits until well into Lower year. My physical and mental health hit a personal low before I was fully motivated to change; prior to then, ‘get more sleep’ had been a mere post-it note on my desk. Not everyone requires such a dreadful experience with their wellbeing to spark change, but I was blind to the fact that there was even something wrong; it had been going on too long for me to notice. A critical moment for me was when I realized that my lack of sleep didn’t just affect my energy, but also affected other chronic health factors that I deal with. Not only did the lack of sleep cause me to feel physically and mentally drained, but it also exacerbated preexisting health conditions. I knew that nothing could truly be done to ‘cure’ me of any of my chronic concerns, but sleep was a clinically proven way to lessen the effects of these conditions. I had been brushing off some of the most important parts of sleep this whole time — regulating hormones, fighting off inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and so much more. I wasn’t completely convinced at the time that it would do anything for me, but I was so desperate that I was willing to try anything.
Clearly, getting more sleep ended up completely helping. As so many researches had proven before, sleep made me feel good. I knew then what I needed to do, but still had to figure out how I would even manage to fit it into my schedule. As I have said before, Upper year requires sacrifices. Naturally, I wouldn’t be able to get this much sleep without picking and choosing how I live my life. Surprisingly, this leads me to a state of setting intentions throughout my day, which basically boils down to being conscious of how I use my time.
For anyone else striving for this much sleep, or any other goal during hectic times in their lives, I recommend this method: Find your non-negotiables. This could be working out for one hour every day, making it to every meal at Paresky Commons, or even reading three books a week. My non-negotiables are my physical health, my mental health, and my sleep. This means that no matter what happens, if something puts one of these things in jeopardy, I have to find a different way to function so I won’t give up any of my non-negotiables. I’m not perfect, so sometimes my intentions fall through, and that really feels bad. However, I have conditioned myself to now seek the mental and physical benefits of getting these priorities, rather than bragging to everyone about how much sleep I’ve been able to squeeze in.
Of course, this might not work for everyone, but my own approach is a mosaic of advice from many YouTube routines, self-help books, and peer’s methods. Because of this I can say, do it your own way. Caring is the first step to taking care of your own health and wellness, and sleep is just a part of it all.