Teenager’s Health Put in School Start Times Hands should the School Day Start Later

It was April 24th, 2018, meanwhile, hard-working yet sleep-deprived student Annabelle Moore was sleeping as peaceful as possible after a long night of studying. Her body had finally hit the stage REM in a regular sleep cycle, otherwise known as deep sleep, until the sharply rhythmic beeping of her six a.m. alarm jostled her awake. The hours of sleep teenagers are receiving has been decreasing as years go on. With this, severe sleep deprivation is becoming common, leaving students, parents, and doctors to the solution: a later start time in schools. Teenagers are infamous for lacking in enough sleep. The average amount of sleep they get is between seven and seven and a half hours. However, these teens need between nine and nine and a half hours to be able to properly function throughout the business of their day, yet are by no means getting this (‘Sleep in Adolescents”).

Although going to sleep at a reasonable hour is easier said than done in teenage years, the lack of sleep adolescents are getting is severely inadequate. Not receiving the proper amount of sleep at night is leading to undesirable outcomes for students mental and physical states’. While an earlier release time provides after-school relaxation, schools should start later because early start times can result in poor performance in school, drug and alcohol use, and obesity.

We all know how it feels arriving at school on hardly any hours of sleep. Whether it be getting home late, insomnia due to stress, loads of homework, or simply our brains refusing to turn off, the lack of sleep students are receiving is beyond inadequate, resulting in poor performance in school. From experience, inefficient amount of sleep leads to cranky behavior, or feelings of grogginess, fatigue, and crankiness do not result in an efficient day of learning. The staff of Sterling Academy informs readers, ‘Multiple studies have demonstrated a direct correlation between school start times and student academic performance. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics formally recommended an 8:30 a.m. or later start time. The CDC also recommends that school start at 8:30 or later, but says fewer than 20% of American middle and high schools operate on that schedule.” High schools normally begin between the times 7:40 to 7:55, most importantly before 8:30 a.m., the suggested time by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nevertheless taking to hand most students fall asleep at 11:00 P.M. or later, making it extremely difficult for teenagers to get the minimum eight and a half hours their bodies urge for. In result, sleepy teens are more prone to be absent, tardy, moody, inattentive and less able to learn. That list alone is sufficient reasoning for implementing this change.

In addition to low performance in school, lacking the proper amount of sleep can lead to drug and alcohol use in teenagers. Adolescents sleep cycles are currently being destroyed by school start times, as teenagers whose brains are going through growth and development are not getting the proper amount of shut-eye for numerous reasons. Moreover, the significant link between sleep patterns during middle school and high school and the risk of substance use has recently been spotlighted in the CASA’s article ‘Sleep Deprived Teens Are at Increased Risk of Substance Use”, written by Ph.D. Linda Richter. Recent studies prove that teenagers who logged getting less than eight hours of sleep per night were more likely to be current users of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana in opposition to those who did get the proper amount of sleep. Turnbridge Addiction Treatment Program stresses that ‘When teens do not get sufficient sleep, certain functions in their brains are impeded. Sleep-deprived teens cannot properly control their impulses or regulate their experience of reward, thus putting them at greater risk for substance initiation and regular drug and alcohol use” (‘Do Teen Sleep Deprivation and Drug Abuse Go Hand-in-Hand?).

Comparatively, a vast growing body of research suggests that there is indeed a link between how much people sleep and how much they weigh. Generally, people who get too little an amount of sleep weigh increasingly more than those who get plentiful sleep. Researchers followed sixty thousand girls for sixteen years, regularly logging their sleep habits, weight, diet and many other aspects of the girls’ lifestyles. The study began with the teens healthy, and none obese. Flashforward sixteen years later, the ones who slept five hours or fewer a night had a fifteen percent higher risk of obesity, in opposition to the girls who slept seven or more hours per night (‘Sleep Deprivation and Obesity”). This change in lifestyle in sleep-deprived students can occur for various reasons increasing the risk of obesity. One reason is that people who are sleep-deprived are far too exhausted to exercise, decreasing the number of calories burned. Another cause is that people who are low on sleep may take in more calories than those who are fully rested, for the sole reason they are awake longer and have more opportunities to eat. Lastly, lacking sleep also disrupts the balance of pivotal hormones that control one’s appetite, therefore sleep-deprived people may be hungrier than those who get enough sleep per night.

In reality, starting school at a later time is not necessarily the only solution. With school starting the time it does, there is more time after school for homework, activities, etc. resulting in a possible earlier bedtime. If not that, it is at least nice to have time after school to relax! However, most teenagers do not get to bed early with things such as sports/activities running late, social media, stress, and electronics. Students on Debate.org express that yes, school should start later. In fact, seventy-nine percent of students agree. One student suggests, ‘Students are extremely stressed in the morning and are rushing to get to school on time! That way they don’t have a good breakfast nor have time to review their studies, getting to school unbelievably tired” (‘Should Schools Start Later?”). Students all over the world are voicing their opinion that schools should start later, for many of them are as sleep-deprived as I know I am. School starting the time it does leads to many serious undesired outcomes, but if not that merely adding more stress to what we already have in high school. To parents, adults, doctors, or teachers of sleep-deprived teenagers, address the issue by talking to the school board about the problem with the current school start time, and them making changes to it. As for the school board/administration, change the school start time to later! More sleep means a healthier, happier, and more efficient lifestyle, something we all could use.

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