Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

School or Sleep. Why must we choose?

Custom User Avatar
More by this author
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!

beccabear said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm
You know we should all make a full page petition out of this article and ask Teen Ink to place it in their magazine. An awful lot of teachers and administrators would see it. What do you think?
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 2:24 pm
My thoughts exactly Smurf. Its time for a change.
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm
Thank you all for the positive comments. I wanted to write about something that was close to not just myself, but to the rest of the High School Populous as well.
tullytalks said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 1:39 pm
I'm bringing this article into the guidance office at my school tomorrow and asking them to send it to our board. Is there one high school student who doesn't feel this way? I don't think so!
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 2:53 pm
Great Idea. In fact, I think that we all should. We should state the facts, expose the truth, and force our schools to change; so thank you.
blanco12 said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 11:13 am
It's so good to finally see an article like this up here--something that is well documented and not just opinion. We should all print copies and march them into our principals' offices and demand that the facts be presented to the school boards.
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 7:10 pm
Great. The Sleep Revolution Starts NOW!
poet10 said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 10:43 am
So glad someone stated the facts. My favorite part of this article is the last paragraph because it is so true. We are always communicating our feelings about the exhaustion of being high school students, but administration and our boards of education don't seem to be listening. High School should begin at 9 AM and end at 3:00 PM. Teachers would be forced to make each lesson count more, and students would be held immediately to task for wasting precious class time. Meanwhile, those of us wh... (more »)
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm
Thank you. The last paragraph was actually my favorite part to write. People always say that I write with too much opinion, but its just that i write about things I care about, and am passionate about. Anyway, your school is very much like mine, so I know how you feel.
leder09 said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 9:24 am
I love this's the story of my life. I spent so much time in high school at the neighborhood Starbucks, just trying to stay awake through the details of my next calculus test. It's not that we can't function while taking 3 or 4 APs a's that, when you're constantly exhausted, the attention to detail goes out the window on exams that require that detail. Teen Ink should send this article and accompanying comments to the President and Education Adviser... (more »)
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 2:48 pm
Thank you. It was actually pretty freaky watching the sun rise in my math class. I see people falling asleep in classes all day because of these exact same reasons.
SpaceKing800 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Dec. 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm
Actually, the President have no control over what occurs during school! Surprising fact, I know. For you see, I am in a position for lowering homework by starting a Homework Revolution, so it is imperative I know such a foul idea. The only reason we can't pay attention in Civics class is because we are sleep deprived.... but from what I remember, the state mandates school hours. Let's not just start a sleep revolution or even a homework revolution... let's started a united SCHOOL ... (more »)
gabby2013 said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 8:52 am
It's about time someone brought all these points up...what have our school administrators been doing all these years? Sleeping? Wake up and change the school starting time!
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 2:57 pm
Thank you. I have one more question to pose. Why, if we have been communicating these ideas for so long, do the administrators not care? Oh, yes, that's right, they don't look into the classes, they don't try to be us, they just assume that if you're sleeping in a class, that you don't care. So please, step into our shoes, and walk around.
tallyho said...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 8:49 am
This is so well-researched and brings up so many vital points, it makes you wonder why the school systems haven't done similar research and adjusted the high school start times accordingly.
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm
The answer to that is simple. The people who have real power don't notice.
jeter95 said...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 10:53 am
this has many good points and high school start times should really be moved back
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 16, 2009 at 2:26 pm
Thank you, and its true, we high schoolers are the ones who need the extra hours of sleep, not the Elementary schoolers who get to sleep till Eight.
Abigail_W replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm
Excellent! I hear that in Italy, they have the perfect schedule. Everything is a couple hours later or something like that. For me to get ten hours of sleep, I'd need to go to bed at 8:00!
Urbs2013 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Nov. 18, 2009 at 4:36 pm
Site Feedback