On a school morning, do you arise feeling sufficiently rested prepared to study, or even undertake the day? More than likely not. Roughly 1 in 10 teenagers in the United States get the 8 to 10 hours of rest per night urged by sleep specialists and doctors. This indicates that in the approximately 42,000,000 teenagers in our country, only about 4,200,000 get the amount of sleep they require. This is due to the fact that numerous schools – private or public – begin around 7:30 a.m. or even sooner, notwithstanding the recommendation from major medical organizations. As Americans, we must take action against the issue of school starting early for teenagers because of medical reasons and the consequences of sleep deprivation.
Throughout the course of puberty, a delay takes place in the youth’s circadian rhythm (a person’s biological clock), which is what causes them to feel tired or awake at certain times that seem unusual to adults. In fact, where melatonin secretion starts at 9 p.m. in adults and younger children, it does not occur until 11 p.m. for teenagers, therefore rousing an adolescent at 6 a.m. is the physiological equivalent of waking an adult up at 4 a.m. Also, we have to consider that it is normal for teenagers to sleep a lot because their bodies and brains are growing. They are subject to many hormonal changes, making them tired. In other words, ‘they are in a time of very fast physical, intellectual growth.’
Very often, the products of chronic sleep deprivation are confused with characteristics of being ‘just a teenager’. However, research has shown that what we shall name moodiness, laziness, irritability, and depression, are all results of lack of sleep. In fact, the brain development being perturbed by sleeplessness is responsible for impulsive and risky behaviors. As soon as teens get less than 9 hours of sleep, they are at risk of poor performance at school, and personal injury through accidents. Starting school later would prevent having sleepy teens on the road, and increasing deadly accidents. Where many teachers question students’ concentration in the classroom, they should question the amount of sleep the students received. Their concentration plummets to the point of showing behavioral signs mimicking ADHD. The outcomes go even farther; it contributes to many mental illnesses such as depression, the use of substances, and suicide. Scientists found that ‘each hour of lost sleep was associated with a 38 percent increase in the risk of feeling sad or hopeless and a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts’. If these were not enough, additional issues tormenting the nation are physical health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
To all antagonists who believe that a later school time would only result in a later bedtime, the truth is, teens’ bedtimes remain the same but with additional time to sleep. This results in higher academic achievments, more concentration, fewer absences and dropouts, less emotional rollercoasters, and an overall better life. Next time there is a time change and you get an extra hour of sleep, and you feel rejuvenated by that extra hour of rest, think about our teenagers, and what a gift that would be for them.
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