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.

(1)
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.

(3)
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!

(4)
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?

(5)
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 315 comments. Post your own!

xfracturedsmile said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 11:39 am:

I love this essay! It is so researched and persuasive. Great job!

I wish I could show this to my school's superintendent! I wish teachers would understand how serious this is and that their students could do so much better if we started the school day AT LEAST an hour later than usual. I hope school's start doing that in the near future. I mean, its scientifically proven and other schools ARE doing it with great results, why isn't everyone else jumping on the band wagon?!

 
JackBean replied...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 11:43 am :
Yes, do it! Make a committee of kids and make an appointment with your administration. You can do this with enough people on board. Our school just agreed to change the start time for next year from 7:30 to 8:30am. Woohooo! It happened because kids were bombarding school board meetings and protesting. These teachers cannot control themselves with giving us constant tests and projects, so we have to take things into our own hands.
 
Coriander replied...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 11:44 am :
Yes! A Student Sleep Revolution! Let's do it!
 
Behind_Blue_EyesThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Feb. 3, 2011 at 10:26 am :
its also proven that the more u sleep, that taller u grow. u grow mainly when u sleep so if u sleep more u will grow a lot taller
 
Hawthorn replied...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm :
Hmm. Sports are a big thing where I live so a better/taller basketball team should motivate them like nothing else.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Spenser This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 10:26 am:
Oh my God, THANK YOU! I suffer from serious sleep issues on school days and my parents want me to get better grades. If schools would start later, things would be a lot better!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
forgottenpennameThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 8:16 am:

Every point you make here is amazing... the kids at my school have been trying to convince the teachers to complain that we should start later for years, but they haven't been able to because they thought that there was no scientific proof backing us up, but hey -- look -- now there is! :D

I'm a high school junior who takes two APs and an honors class and participates heavily in the theatre company, NHS, church activities, and takes voice and guitar lessons. For a while, I was also tak... (more »)

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Jakethesnake said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 5:55 am:
Jeez, I have to get up at five and grab a coffee. This and maybe an extra month of school would be a good idea. We should model it off of China, who is higher up on the scale than us. Also, we have to push our society to not focus on entertainment, but rather school. If we can do that, we may have a chance to catch back up. Trust me, I definitely do not want China or any other country to be said better than the U.S. I don't care what it's in- school, economy, military, or anything else.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
sunshine04 said...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 2:33 am:

its so cool you all have ap classes 

here every physics teacher is useless 

i have a great interest in ap 

if i have to stay all night i 'll do

and the sleep problem is very true my friends feel sleepy at 9 pm 

actually i am night owl

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
xJuneBugx said...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 8:32 pm:
well researched, good arguement!! i want to show this article to my school board! ... i would write more, but i should probably get to bed.... :)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
nena said...
Jan. 31, 2011 at 2:49 pm:
good point. (:
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
sicilia said...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm:
i love the topic of this! it's so true. the organizations a little awkward, but otherwise great article!
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
pumpkin1997 said...
Jan. 11, 2011 at 10:06 am:
This is amazing. I love all the facts, and this should really be a good eye opener
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Israel70717 said...
Jan. 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm:
The government should not give us longer hours but if they do they should not change the hour we start because then we would be in school all day and have nothing else to do. We as teens need a lot of sleep and many of use are not even getting to sleep at least 8 hours we sleep about 5 to 6 hours and we go to school restless. Teachers should go easier on home work assignments because that takes sleeping time from us causing more stress. But my main point is that I don't want the government to gi... (more »)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
fatboy said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 6:44 am:
you my friend, are my hero.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Olivia7 said...
Dec. 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm:
Yeah, teens really are on the low end of the scale. People are always wondering why teens are so grumpy and stubborn, but the answer is staring them right in the face. We need more sleep!!! Teens are still kids and need their own free time.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Babygirl809 said...
Dec. 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm:
I have a solution...DONT TAKE AP CLASSES!!! if u cant handle it. I get up at 5:30 schools starts at 7:30. I take Advanced and AP classes. I am in 6 clubs. I do basketball, golf, and softball. I have to cook, do the dishes and clean the house. I volunteer at several places and work at the commissary. I barely sleep during the week but hey Its a competitive world you have to keep if you want to go to a good school and have a good career. 
 
Thomsays replied...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 10:39 am :
This is ridiculous. If you barely sleep you may be taking AP classes (though you don't say how many) but you can't be doing very well in them. You also don't mention any leadership position. That's a whole other story. many of us have organizations, clubs, newspapers and businesses to run. So the moralizing doesn't work for those of us taking the top track and trying to elad at the same time.
 
EmilyMichelle This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm :
Thomsays, this is NOT ridiculous and not neccesarily true. I know a girl whose schedule is entirely IB classes (which many people consider harder than AP) and whose overall schedule sounds much like Babygirl809's and she has straight A's and several leadership positions. I don't know how Babygirl809 is doing in her classes but it's not "ridiculous." You sound very self-satisfied in saying "those of us taking the top track and trying to lead at the same time." Maybe Babygirl809 has leadership pos... (more »)
 
abridge replied...
Jul. 29, 2011 at 5:37 pm :

I think the point isn't whether it is possible or not to survive on 6 or less hours of sleep, the point is that everyone has different needs and abilities.  If so many people are having trouble with 6 hours of sleep, then that is worth talking about, and maybe changing something. 

By the way, fantastic article!  Very informative.

 
Grania This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 3, 2012 at 8:59 am :

Babygirl809-

I really respect that you are so invested in your school and community, but I want to give you a warning, because I used to do the same thing you are doing now. After two years of involvement like yours, I was diagnosed to be addicted to stress hormones, and I have now spent a very long time working to normalize the chemicals in my brain through yoga and meditation. It certainly is a competitive world, but it is actually not as competitive as you think. I just graduated an... (more »)

 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback