Editor's note: The following story was produced for Youth Takeover week at KQED.
I’m typing this story at 3:44 AM on a Wednesday morning, just a few hours before school begins. If it hadn’t been pushed back a couple of weeks, the SAT would have happened today, and I would have taken it operating on about two hours' worth of sleep. On Thursday, I’ll probably be pulling an all-nighter to finish my work for AP U.S. History.
I’ve never had what most people would call “healthy sleeping habits.” In elementary school, I would go to my cousin’s house for sleepovers, and every midnight, we’d raid the fridge for his dad’s Red Bull, hyping ourselves up on however much caffeine we could find, and pretend we were asleep when his mom came to get us in the morning.
I’m a junior now, and I still drink a lot of Red Bull. I have five empty 24-packs sitting in the back of my closet that can testify to that. I know it’s bad for me. I’ve heard more than enough stories in my life about heart failure, and livers with holes them. But really, energy drinks are the only way I can keep myself awake during the day.
As a result, I’ve developed insomnia, high blood pressure and angina. I’m 17 years old, but I can sometimes feel my heart skip beats when the caffeine makes my blood pump too fast. Loud noises and stress mixed with Monster Energy drinks cause my ears to ring.