Sleep deprivation is now just another part of high school. A teenager’s inability to wake up is not a product of adolescent laziness or anything of that sort, but rather a reconfiguration of one’s body clock when they reach the teenage years. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens bodies, on average, are inclined to go to sleep and wake up around two hours later than the average adult. Therefore, it is natural for a teenager to not be able to fall asleep before 11 o’clock. Even if a high school student goes to sleep at eleven o’clock, and wakes up for school at six thirty, they are only getting seven and a half hours of sleep. The only problem: high school students are recommended anywhere from eight to ten hours.
Adding various extra-curricular activities, sports, and an abundance of nightly homework, students are thrusted into a sleeping paradox. Having to wake up at six or six thirty every morning makes it nearly impossible for students to get the amount of sleep they need when they have so many different time-consuming obligations every day.
Operating on a less-than-adequate night’s sleep causes one to have difficulty focusing and decreases performance in everyday functions. Additionally, adequate sleep allows students to deal with stress that is poured on in the high school years. Sleep is widely considered by specialists to be just as important as food and water, but it seems as if students are being deprived of it.
A solution has loomed in the distance for many education boards across the country, and some have already accepted this solution. The idea is to start school anywhere from an hour to forty five minutes later every day to give students more time to sleep in the mornings. Many naysayers claim that it affects after school activities, shortens instructional time, and makes it difficult on parents that have to go to work, which keeps this idea from being enacted in every school district in America. Come fall and winter, there is little light for sports after school, and if school ends later, then there is less time for homework, something that is difficult to get done as it is.
Ridgewood High School has taken the path down the middle, and revamped their sleep-in policy from last year. Last year’s policy was that students would be given an extra hour to sleep in one Wednesday per month, and this year, the policy was extended to twice a month, or once every other week.
The feedback is all the same by the student body: they will take any extra time to sleep in that they can get, and the extra day every month helps. However, in the eyes of many, it still isn’t enough.
Fatigue is still an issue for many kids in Ridgewood High School, and the added pressures and stress of school are perpetuated by the lack of sleep a majority of kids get every weekday. There are still many cons for starting the school day later, but it is worth asking the question: Do these drawbacks negate the huge benefits that students will receive from an extra hour of sleep each night?
Graphic: Lizzie Benjamin