It’s common for students to feel mentally drained or ready for a nap after a full day of learning and concentrating in class. However, many students experience persistent exhaustion that goes beyond normal end-of-day fatigue. Feeling completely depleted both physically and emotionally day after day is not normal.
This article explores the prevalent reasons academics can sap students’ energy. It outlines the negative effects severe tiredness has on health, school performance, activities and happiness. Finally, you’ll find helpful solutions to fight school-related fatigue so you can thrive as a student and still have energy left when the final bell rings.
Is This Level of Fatigue Normal for Students?
It’s perfectly understandable to feel a bit foggy or ready to relax after lots of instruction, lectures, note-taking, testing, and critical thinking throughout the day. In fact, research shows our mental stamina and focus naturally drain as the day progresses.
However, the following symptoms on a regular basis may indicate excessive, abnormal tiredness:
- Feeling exhausted immediately after your last class
- Strong urge to take a nap as soon as you get home
- Completely drained both physically and mentally
- Ongoing lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating
While some end-of-day tiredness is expected, feeling completely wiped out day after day suggests you should look at aspects of school life that may be contributing to fatigue.
Key Reasons School Zaps Your Energy
There are several primary causes that explain why sitting through school day after day can feel so tiring:
1. Insufficient Sleep
Not getting adequate sleep is perhaps the single biggest reason school is exhausting. Teens need 8-10 hours of consistent sleep per night. But studies reveal that most adolescents fall short:
|Recommended Sleep for Teens||% of Teens Getting Insufficient Sleep|
Staying up late studying, increased social media and technology use at night, early school start times, and natural shifts in circadian rhythms during puberty all undermine teens’ sleep. Just a few nights of limited sleep builds a sleep debt that’s difficult to recover from within the confines of a school week. Showing up to school each day lacking sleep leaves you fighting fatigue from the start.
2. Heavy Cognitive Workload
The intense mental workload and academic pressure of middle school and high school demand a lot of brainpower. Hours of concentration required for classes, homework, testing, projects, and other assignments drain mental energy. It’s understandable that exerting so much mental effort day after day is tiring.
Teen brains are still developing, so focusing for prolonged periods depletes resources. Demands to multitask different subjects and manage complex information leaves many students feeling cognitively taxed.
3. Physical Inactivity
Insufficient physical activity is another contributor to students feeling depleted. Teens should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity daily. However, studies reveal only about 20% of high schoolers meet this recommendation.
With most of the school day spent sitting, followed by more sedentary time from homework and screens, teens remain largely inactive. This sedentary lifestyle prevents the energizing effects of regular exercise.
4. Poor Nutrition
The typical teenage diet often falls short nutritionally, negatively impacting energy levels. Many students consume diets high in processed foods, fast food, sugary snacks and beverages, caffeine, and few fruits and vegetables. These food choices lead to crashes and fatigue.
Skipping breakfast is also more prevalent among teens who cite morning laziness or lack of time. Starting the day without fuel makes focusing through morning classes much more challenging. Ensuring adequate nutrition is key to avoiding that midday school slump.
5. Stress and Anxiety
Surveys reveal high rates of school-related stress and anxiety among today’s students compared to past generations. Stress powerfully saps mental and physical energy.
Juggling academic pressure, social drama, family issues, life transitions like puberty, technology overload, and the 24/7 news cycle weighs heavily on teenage mental health. High stress and anxiety may manifest physically as fatigue.
6. Learning Challenges
Students with certain learning disorders like ADHD, dyslexia, or auditory processing issues must exert more effort than their peers to stay engaged during lessons. Those with special needs or learning disabilities are particularly prone to cognitive overload and burnout from the constant extra effort required to keep up. Support services like 504 Plan accommodations and special education aid can help minimize fatigue for these students.
7. Health Issues
Various medical conditions can also increase fatigue, making school days feel more exhausting.
For example, anemia causes tiredness from low iron and oxygen. Asthma may worsen from stress and environmental triggers at school. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea disturb restorative sleep. Chronic illnesses, infections like mono, and medications or treatments can also play a role.
If fatigue persists even with good sleep, nutrition and exercise, visiting your doctor is wise to determine if an underlying health issue needs treatment.
8. Start Times Too Early
Scientific research confirms that early school start times do not align with teens’ natural circadian rhythms and sleep needs. Having to wake up extra early for first period directly robs students of critical sleep. Later school start times allow teens to sleep in accordance with their biological clocks. Yet most American middle and high schools still start early, typically between 7:30-8:30 am. These early bell times fight against teens’ sleep requirements and leave many starting the day already sleep deprived.
9. Extracurricular Overload
Being highly involved in academics, sports, clubs, arts, volunteer work and other activities imparts valuable experiences but also strains time and energy, especially if you overdo it. Attempting to balance overflowing extracurricular schedules on top of schoolwork cuts into much needed downtime to recharge. Learning to set limits on involvement helps manage fatigue.
All of these factors interact to drain students’ mental and physical reserves and explain why merely getting through each school day can feel so tiring compared to other life stages.
The Negative Effects of Feeling Too Tired at School
Being excessively tired at school doesn’t just leave you longing for nap time. Ongoing fatigue can seriously impact students in the following areas:
- Weakened immune system and increased illnesses
- Weight gain from inactivity and poor diet
- Muscle loss and feeling physically weak
- Poor concentration, focus and memory
- Lack of motivation and feelings of burnout
- Increased irritability, anxiety and sadness
- Poorer comprehension and retention of material
- Decline in test scores and grades
- Trouble staying awake and focused in class
- Loss of interest in clubs, sports, arts activities
- Skipping social outings with friends
- Giving up hobbies and passions
Severe tiredness clearly takes a toll on all aspects of a student’s life. Let’s go over some solutions to help you defeat fatigue.
Tips for Overcoming School-Related Fatigue
Here are some of the most effective strategies for combating tiredness caused by school:
Prioritize Sleep Habits
- Aim for 8-10 hours nightly to meet sleep needs for teens.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even weekends. An inconsistent schedule confuses your body clock.
- Limit screen time before bed since electronics delay melatonin release and disrupt sleep cycles.
- Establish a relaxing pre-bed routine like reading fiction, listening to calm music, meditating, or taking a warm shower.
- Evaluate your sleep environment and optimize conditions like mattresses, temperature, lighting and noise that affect sleep quality.
- Eat regular balanced meals and snacks. Focus on whole foods – produce, nuts, yogurt, eggs, meat, fish. Avoid empty junk food.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration worsens fatigue.
- Never skip breakfast! Fuel up in the morning to concentrate all morning.
- Consume portable protein-rich snacks between classes like nuts, hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, protein bars or shakes. Pair with fruit or veggies.
- Limit added sugar and sweetened beverages to avoid blood sugar surges and crashes.
Take Regular Activity Breaks
- Make time to exercise daily, even just 20-30 minutes of walking, jogging, biking, dance, sports, etc.
- Walk or bike to school when possible for an energizing morning boost.
- Take short movement breaks during long classes. Do some seated stretches, knee raises or jog in place. Moving ignites energy.
- Stand and walk around between classes rather than sitting the whole break. Changing positions wakes you up.
Practice Stress Management Techniques
- Learn mindfulness practices like belly breathing, guided imagery, grounding strategies. Use these to reset when stressed. Apps like Calm can teach mindfulness.
- Identify and reframe negative thoughts that magnify stress. Challenge distorted thinking through journaling, meditation and self-talk.
- Share feelings and connect with empathetic friends and mentors for social support.
- Take mini self-care breaks during the school day listing things you’re grateful for or writing positive affirmations.
- Get adequate sleep to reinforce resilience against stress.
Set Limits Around Extracurriculars
- Assess which activities energize you and which drain you. Consider cutting back on those depleting you.
- Decline non-essential obligations. Don’t overschedule yourself.
- Alternate lighter and more demanding days so you have some time to recharge.
- Build in downtime each day to relax and do activities you enjoy, not just schoolwork.
See Your Doctor if Needed
Consult your physician if:
- You sleep sufficiently but still feel exhausted
- Fatigue impairs school performance
- You fall asleep unintentionally
- You experience sudden fatigue changes unrelated to lifestyle
- Exhaustion occurs alongside other concerning symptoms like appetite changes or fainting
Describe your fatigue, sleep habits, academic workload, and any other symptoms. Bloodwork can check for potential issues like anemia or thyroid disorders. A sleep study can assess for sleep disorders like apnea. Medical causes may be behind hard to treat fatigue.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is it normal to feel tired after a full day at school?
It’s very common to feel a bit mentally fatigued after hours of lessons, concentrating, learning and testing. But feeling completely physically and emotionally depleted daily after school is too extreme and often indicates inadequate sleep, nutrition, or poor stress management.
2. How many hours of sleep do teenagers need?
Teenagers typically need around 8-10 hours of quality sleep per night for optimal academic performance, concentration, memory, mood, and daytime energy. Prioritizing consistent sufficient sleep is key to avoiding severe tiredness during school.
3. What’s the best diet for energy at school?
Eat regular balanced meals and snacks containing complex carbs, lean protein, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. Drink plenty of water. Limit sugar and refined carbs which lead to energy crashes. Eat a solid nutritious breakfast each morning.
4. Should I drop extracurricular activities if I’m always tired?
Overscheduling extracurricular and social commitments on top of schoolwork is a common cause of fatigue. It’s OK to cut back on nonessential activities if you feel burned out. Protect time for sleep, relaxing, and focusing on academics before overfilling your schedule.
5. How can I motivate myself when I’m too tired to study?
Make studying more engaging by studying with classmates, taking short movement breaks, chewing gum, listening to music, and rewarding yourself between tasks. Talk to your doctor if lack of motivation, concentration, or feelings of depression are worsening fatigue. Prioritize sleep, diet, and stress management as well.
It’s common to feel a little mentally drained after school, but feeling completely exhausted day after day is a red flag. Ensure you get sufficient sleep, nutrition, exercise and downtime. Evaluate your workload and commitments. Address any emotional pressures or health issues contributing to fatigue as well. Adopting a few key lifestyle habits can help transform school from tiring to inspiring!