Who’s to Blame for Less Sleep?

You roll over in your bed, and hit the snooze on your alarm. It is the same old routine of going to bed late and waking up early. By the end of the school day you are exhausted and cannot wait until you get to go to sleep that night. However, once again you face another late night of homework and assignments that have piled up. As a school we have to ask ourselves, who is to blame for the lack of sleep many students face?

Countless doctors and educated professionals have advocated for high school to start at a later time. An early start time goes against the biological clocks for adolescents, and it perpetuates an unhealthy sleep cycle. A student who wakes up at 6:30 AM is fighting their natural clock, and will feel groggy in the afternoon due to elevated melatonin levels when they first wake up. Later start times have also been tested and proven to better school life for students. In Minneapolis, seven high schools experimented and moved their start time from 7:25 AM to 8:30 AM. Studies have shown that the students got five or more extra hours of sleep per week thanks to the later start time. In addition, enrollment and attendance rate amongst students went up, as well as levels of alertness. On the other hand, starting early results in a high number of tardies, and significantly lower grades. Although there is compelling evidence supporting a later start time for high school, many district heads and parents are still reluctant to altering the schedule.

The American Academy of Pediatrics are calling on school boards to change the start time of high school for the betterment of the students. They released a policy in 2014 that “insufficient sleep in adolescents [is] an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety, as well as the academic success, of our nation’s middle and high school students”.  The association firmly establishes that school should start no earlier than 8:30 AM, in order to give students a plentiful amount of time to fully wake up. However, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasized the importance of sufficient sleep for students in 2014, there has yet to be any significant change coming from school districts. Giving students enough time to be able to learn to their full extent, and have proficiency in their performance in school is vital for the success amongst students.

It is necessary for teens to get at least nine hours of sleep per night. However due to the current school system, less than half of American students get the required nine hours of sleep, and 58% of 15 to 17 year olds regularly sleep less than seven hours a night. This lack of sleep will ultimately be detrimental to the mental development of students. If school administrations were to enact a later start time, overall quality of life for students would be drastically improved. No change can be done unless district heads throughout the country recognize the faults in their own system. Although students can spread awareness of the national sleep deprivation problem amongst teenagers, district heads are responsible for the health of their high school students.

The vicious cycle of lack of sleep will have long term effects on the academic success of teenagers in 2019. As students it is important to take action on issues that are directly affecting you and your performance in school. With sleep deprivation on the rise amongst teenagers, we as students must point fingers as to who is to blame.

Anna Meringolo
staff writer

Graphic: Nicole Kye

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