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High School Start Time Challenges Student Sleep Patterns

Senior+Colby+Joseph+out+cold++on+the+stairs+due+to+sleep+deprivation.%0A%0APhotographer%3A+Morgan+Smith+ft.+LHS+Lite+Team
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High School Start Time Challenges Student Sleep Patterns

Senior Colby Joseph out cold  on the stairs due to sleep deprivation.

Photographer: Morgan Smith ft. LHS Lite Team

Senior Colby Joseph out cold on the stairs due to sleep deprivation. Photographer: Morgan Smith ft. LHS Lite Team

Morgan Smith

Senior Colby Joseph out cold on the stairs due to sleep deprivation. Photographer: Morgan Smith ft. LHS Lite Team

Morgan Smith

Morgan Smith

Senior Colby Joseph out cold on the stairs due to sleep deprivation. Photographer: Morgan Smith ft. LHS Lite Team

Kenner B., Reporter

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How much sleep did you get last night? According to most sleep experts, teenagers should have anywhere from eight to ten hours of sleep every night. Yep. Not five, not six hours and twenty-seven minutes, but a whopping nine hours and fifteen minutes (if you are looking at a widely accepted average time). Sleepfoundation.org (the website of the National Sleep Foundation) lists some side-effects from lack of sleep: “…aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as yelling at your friends or being impatient…” as well as, “…Limiting ability to learn, listen, concentrate and solve problems.”  It is even a contributing factor to weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation also says, “Lack of sleep can contribute to acne and other skin problems.”

If you are a die-hard “night owl” like me, or simply suffer from inadequate sleep like around 70 percent of teenagers usually do (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), this news might be disheartening. However, you may find comfort in learning that it is not entirely your fault if you have a hard time getting to bed as a teenager and that there are some ways to help solve the problem.

To fully understand the reason why it is hard for teenagers to fall asleep at night, we have to understand a little bit about our bodies and how sleep works. The American Psychological Association points out in their article, “Later School Start Times Promote Adolescent Well-Being,” that, “The sleep-wake cycle is governed by both the homeostatic drive for sleep… and the circadian rhythm…”

The same article by the APA explained homeostatic drive as something that, “…builds during wakefulness and makes you feel tired.” What this means in a nutshell is that this is what makes you exhausted after pulling an all-nighter. The more time you spend awake, the stronger the urge to sleep is. It is also mentioned that this drive weakens during adolescence.

Sleepfoundation.org explains how our bodies have built-in biological clocks (circadian rhythms) that help determine when we feel tired and when we feel most awake. This is why younger kids get up at 6 o’clock and why some teenagers can sleep until 2 pm without even trying. The biological clock, or circadian rhythm, is what tells you it’s time to get ready for bed. According to the site, this biological clock gets set off rhythm with puberty during adolescence and stays this way until early adulthood. This unavoidable shift has been affecting teenagers by, “…making it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00 pm.” The site also adds, “Since most teens have early school start times along with other commitments, this sleep phase delay can make it difficult to get the sleep teens need…”

So now that we understand nature’s part in making us fall asleep in class, what can be done to solve the problem?

Even if we are making good sleep-related choices, there are still things that can keep us drowsy. School start time has been a very heated topic of debate in relation to getting teenagers the sleep they need. Since our biological clocks don’t tell us to go to bed normally until around eleven o’ clock, waking up at six every school morning to get ready for the day makes being alert at school a whole new challenge.

In 2014, the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) said the following in an abstract on their website pediatrics.aappublications.org, “Although a number of factors, including biological changes in sleep associated with puberty, lifestyle choices, and academic demands, negatively affect middle and high school students’ ability to obtain sufficient sleep, the evidence strongly implicates earlier school start times (i.e., before 8:30 am) as a key modifiable contributor to insufficient sleep, as well as circadian rhythm disruption, in this population.” What the AAP is saying is that every student is different. Many different things contribute to lack of quality sleep. Delaying school start time is one way that can benefit almost all students in some way regardless of varying lifestyle choices, academic demands, etc.

Tim Walker, in his article for neaToday (the news site for the National Education Association) reported on a study conducted by the University of Minnesota in 2014 that collected data from over 9000 students in eight high schools spread over three states. The study shows that, “…attendance and academic performance in math, English, science and social studies improved at schools with later start times, while tardiness, substance abuse, and symptoms of depression declined.

Other benefits of a later start time, according to the APA, include: “…

  • Decrease in disciplinary action
  • Decrease in student-involved car accidents
  • Increase in student GPA
  • Increase in state assessment scores
  • Increase in college admissions test scores
  • Increase in student attention
  • Decrease in student sleeping during instruction
  • Increase in quality of student-family interaction.”

            Many people may argue that the cost of transportation adjustment (getting more buses to transport high school students later in the day due to elementary/ junior high schedule conflicts) would be too high. While this would be a good amount of money to get together more busses, consider it as an investment. While the upfront cost may seem daunting, many of the benefits of getting more sleep would help decrease the amount of school funding that goes towards disciplinary action, remedial costs, and counseling, as well as the potential to increase school funding due to the improvement of their students.

So maybe it’s time to rethink the whole wake-up-at-6-am-to-get-ready-for-school-every-day thing. Science has proven that the odds are stacked heavily against teenagers when it comes to remaining awake and fully functioning when they have to wake up so early- it literally goes against their biology. Through a few leading examples of schools that have set back their start time, we see a possible solution that boasts countless benefits for both the school and its students. While this big step towards a better quality of life and education may seem financially daunting, the investment looks to be well worth it. While sleep doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, it’s amazing to me how much better your outlook on life can be with a good night’s rest under your belt. Don’t believe me? Maybe you should sleep on it.

 

Kenner B., Reporter

I am a member of the Layton High graduating class of 2017. This is my first time writing for a published newspaper and I am really excited to learn more...

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High School Start Time Challenges Student Sleep Patterns