Way Past My Bedtime This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Itis 7:20 in the morning. The sun has not quite peeked through the gray cloudcanopy, and the woodland creatures have not begun to stir, but somehow wehigh-school students are supposed to be wide-awake and ready for first period. Ilook at my classmates' faces: all have blurry eyes with half-drooping lids. Theirmouths hang open, seemingly to hold the expression of shock at thesleep-deprivation torture they are forced to endure five days a week, and theymore closely resemble a pack of pale-faced zombies from a B-grade horror moviethan a community of scholars. The teens stagger into their classes, just beforethe bell, and promptly collapse back into a nap on their glossy wooddesks.

Is this really the most effective learning environment? Fresh ideasare supposed to come from the students, not just the teachers, but many canhardly manage more than a gruff rumbling noise. To be fair, several do manage tocock their heads up once the teacher begins, but the vast majority remain tooworn out even to wipe the spittle from the corners of their mouths, let alonediscuss the intricacies of Ernest Hemingway's use of symbolism.

Whenstudents are forced out of bed each morning, they sacrifice their ability toretain information and focus on assigned tasks. Furthermore, this shadow ofsleepiness cast over every student does not end with the first class; studentscannot simply snap out of their dazes once second period rolls around.

The fatigue lingers through the day and beyond, even into after-school practiceswhere exhaustion can become dangerous. A case in point: consider an athletearriving at the lacrosse field to have a hard, rubber ball rocketed at his facefor three hours while he suffers from lack of sleep. One minor lapse inconcentration, a frequent side-effect of sleep deprivation, could land thatathlete in the hospital.

Teachers and administrators have argued, and willcontinue to argue, that the current schedule is necessary to provide a proper busschedule. Yet they are the ones who are responsible for providing a learningenvironment that is most conducive to learning. And this author would like toknow how that can be attained when waking up for a 7:20 class completelycontradicts the normal teenage sleeping pattern?

On weekends and schoolvacations, when students are not burdened with the frightening call of the alarmclock, they sleep from two or three in the morning to about 11 a.m. If theynaturally gravitate to staying up late and sleeping late, why shouldn't schoolsaccommodate teenagers instead of forcing them into a highly unnatural sleepschedule?

The most sensible thing would be to understand the needs ofteens and change the normal daily starting time to somewhere around 9:15, thetime many elementary schools begin. All the administration would need to changewould be which school's bus route is done first. (Third-graders wake up earlyanyway, and have more energy than any teenager can claim.) Under this new policy,high-school students would get out later in the afternoon, but at least theywould spend the day more mentally and physically refreshed.

Many teens arecaught in this vicious cycle. They do not get to sleep on time because they needto finish homework. Failing to do so, they are up far too late to get enoughsleep for the following day. And so it continues until June, when students havethree months to pursue the ten hours a night that they deserve and need. Whydon't we receive the same treatment the other nine months of the year?




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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