School or Sleep. Why must we choose?

November 6, 2009
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In a country that is searching for answers as to why its children are not performing at top capacity, it seems fairly obvious that one of those answers may be found in the time at which they start their school day. For any parent who has looked with pity upon their teenage children as they drag themselves, glassy-eyed, and bedraggled, out of bed at 6 AM each day, there is a way to help. Do some deluging of your own and bombard your school board with well-researched pleas for a later start to the high school day. Not only will our students be healthier and more successful at tasks in school, they will become nicer individuals.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders has published studies explaining that once a child goes through puberty, the body’s circadian rhythm changes. An eight or nine year old is physically capable of falling asleep at 9:00 P.M., but a teen over the age of thirteen has already gone through a circadian rhythm shift, in which the natural hormone Melatonin is not released until later at night, leaving them unable to fall asleep until 11:00 P.M. or 12 A.M. This creates the scenario of teens receiving no more than six to six and a half hours of sleep a night, when research shows that they need a minimum of nine to eleven hours. Combine this with the stress of constant testing, heavy course loads, after school clubs, jobs and research internships and you get a very stressed out, unhealthy young ‘next generation.’ Who can blame them for being cranky?

The following list outlines the key points in the debate for a later school day.

Weight Gain: When one goes to sleep early, one produces specific chemicals that inhibit weight loss. The body views sleep loss as stress, and stress encourages people to want to eat carbs, like pasta, bread, or potato chips. Sleep deprivation lowers leptin levels (a chemical which indicates body fat and fullness), and raises ghrelin levels (a chemical which induces hunger and reduces satiation levels). The body reacts in this way because it sees sleep loss as a major source of stress. The association between sleep deprivation and obesity seems to be strongest in young-adults. According to the online library system, GALE, several important studies using nationally representative samples suggest that the obesity problem in the United States might have teen sleep loss as a major factor.

(2) Disease: The health detriment to teens is actually quite frightening. A 1999 study

discovered that 11 healthy students who slept only four hours per night for six nights showed insulin and blood sugar levels similar to those of people "on the verge of diabetes." Equally impressive studies demonstrate rise in heart disease and blood pressure in young people who are sleep deprived.

Better Grades: lack of sleep affects a student’s cognitive state, making it difficult to focus on the details of a class, and adversely affecting memory. Studies have shown that schools who moved their start times from 7:30 A.M. to 8:10 A.M., and especially those schools whose days begin at 9:00 AM, have noticeably better and more alert students. In these schools, 90% of the student populous move up a full grade, and those who are already in the A-range become more energetic and creative. (APA Monitor) Apparently the high level thinking that becomes impaired with sleep loss returns with an extra one and a half to two hours of sleep.

This should not be surprising as numerous studies from medical schools like the University of California at San Diego (2000) have determined that the brains of otherwise healthy teens had to work harder to achieve less when sleep-deprived.

In the year that the new high school schedule was implemented for the schools involved in the above study, teachers found that more of the curriculum was able to be taught in a single period. Even the teachers themselves seemed more involved and animated, according to an anonymous survey. After all, teaching is partially a performance art, and a performer can only be as good as his or her audience. If people in the audience are sleeping, it cuts down on some of the performer’s enthusiasm!

Sports: Sleep is a natural steroid. It boosts stamina and energy, but best of all, it doesn’t hurt the body like anabolic steroids. The more sleep someone gets, the more likely they are to succeed, and even excel in sports. Imagine what nine hours a night could do for the high school football team?

Personality: As someone who has personally experienced this debilitating loss of sleep, I can safely say that on the days when I lose a lot of sleep, I am a very grumpy and unapproachable individual.

Parents and teachers say that they want teens to communicate with them, but high school students are communicating on a daily basis: through their anxiety, frustration, constant colds and illness, short tempers, and need for isolation—just to recuperate from battling an exhausting day on six hours of sleep. The Government is so concerned about keeping students in school for more hours—how about allowing teens to begin their school day more rested so they can perform in a more focused, energetic manner? 9:00 A.M. –it’s such a nice round number.

Join the Discussion

This article has 319 comments. Post your own now!

_Trixia said...
Apr. 26, 2016 at 10:20 am
Cool! I've found explanation.. Lucky for us, some teenagers can't handle this situations/ pressures in life. Teenagers do a lot of adjustments.
DruperBryan said...
Apr. 25, 2014 at 3:03 pm
Lucky you, but I think that this has become a problem because yours is an ecception... Most of US middle schools and High Schools start before 8:00am
Cats replied...
Dec. 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm
I think cats are the way to go. Don't you?
Firelight23 said...
Dec. 26, 2013 at 9:26 pm
This is a great argument and a debate my language arts class mentioned in school. It's obvious that many highschoolers are sleep deprived and stressed, and something should be done to change this. 
mooimacrab said...
Oct. 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm
this is a really good argment love it 
Susieq said...
Apr. 11, 2013 at 9:55 pm
As a current high school student, I think high school classes should start at 9am and end at 3pm
Grania This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jul. 3, 2012 at 9:05 am
As for the article, I love it! Really compelling arguments. I totally agree with you. I'd also like to add that starting school later does not mean we should have to end later. The six-hour school day itself is sortof a bad idea, as the brain can only take-in new information for a very short amount of time before it needs a period to process the information subconsciously. Later-starting, shorter school days that are richer and more full of hands-on experience are the way to go, in my opinion.
scribeofwonderworld said...
Mar. 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm
The truth of the matter is that students/teachers/parents will always have a certain amount of stress and responsibilities associated with school. If the length of the school day remains constant, there still won't be a significant change in the stress and duties we will face. Therefore, it is best to allocate the 24 hours that we have in a given day properly so that we balance our physical needs and school-related responsibilities.
nancydrewgirl said...
Dec. 30, 2011 at 12:39 am
"Tech tongue" seems like a very impractical way of speaking if you ask me. And yes, before you go off on me, I go to school. I am a teenage girl. Now, for instance, 'noe' is really spelled 'know'. Oh look, one more letter and two different ones. 'pitty' is really spelled 'pity'. One less word. It also is extremely hard to get your point across and sound like a well-educated individual if you are talking in incomprehensible English. Yes, it may be 'convenient' when you are texting on your p... (more »)
nancydrewgirl replied...
Dec. 30, 2011 at 12:40 am
Sorry, I was replying to ms.practicallyintellectual and pressed the wrong button.
schoolgirl13 said...
Dec. 29, 2011 at 9:38 pm
where i see your point, on the downside, we wouldnt get home until like five p.m. Add in the kids who participate in extra-curriculars, and they dont get home until around seven thirty. Plus at least a half hour for homework, as well as time for dinner, and of course hygiene. After all of this, its eitehr late, or time to sleep for the next day. This would cause a person to not have any free-time or close to none. Where as I love the idea of starting later, it would not really help teens too muc... (more »)
sarahmichelle98 said...
Nov. 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm
if i went to school i would know? um, excuse you, but maybe if YOU went to school you could put together a proper sentence. i didnt even understand half of what you replied.
sarahmichelle98 said...
Nov. 14, 2011 at 9:32 pm
i would rather school start at 10 and then get out at 5, as opposed to it starting at 7 and then getting out at 2. i stay up until late anyways, so waking up later would be nice, and getting home later wouldnt make any difference to me personally b/c like i said, im up late either way.
dylan Kratzberg replied...
Dec. 6, 2011 at 9:43 am
ok....i thank that school some not change because kids these day go to bad like 12:00 at night and when they wake up to go to bed then they complain about how tired they are. just go to bed earlier!!!!!!!!   
Loldawg replied...
Apr. 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm
As much as I agree with you, Dylan, as someone with an extremely heavy workload, going to be before one o'clock is just an inconceivable notion. Although many people may have extra time, many others do not. I, for one, know that my schedule leaves me no time after school to do anything but a sports practice, eat, and do homework. All before falling asleep between 12:00 and 1:00. I think that your sentiment is a good one, it is just unrealistic for many students who are have maybe a litt... (more »)
ms.practicallyintellectual said...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm
sounds informative... i liked it... but lukng at it practicly... i wud radr say dat difrnt ppl hv difrnt viewz... as long as u luv going 2 skul... evrythng suits nd flz in plc... SKUL ROCKZ!!! u get all ur frndz, exposure nd knowldge dere... ;D
sarahmichelle98 replied...
Nov. 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm
do you know how to  spell? or speak english? because that might be helpful.
ms.practicallyintellectual replied...
Nov. 15, 2011 at 3:17 am
oh well dis is call d "tech tongue"... only if u wud have attended school u wud noe... neways i wud rather say u p[ick up a dictionary first... u noe 4 starters...
ms.practicallyintellectual replied...
Nov. 15, 2011 at 3:19 am
well this is called tech tongue... only if ud been 2 school u wud noe... i have pitty on u...
nancydrewgirl replied...
Dec. 30, 2011 at 12:41 am
"Tech tongue" seems like a very impractical way of speaking if you ask me. And yes, before you go off on me, I go to school. I am a teenage girl. Now, for instance, 'noe' is really spelled 'know'. Oh look, one more letter and two different ones. 'pitty' is really spelled 'pity'. One less word. It also is extremely hard to get your point across and sound like a well-educated individual if you are talking in incomprehensible English. Yes, it may be 'convenient' when you are texting on your phone, ... (more »)
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