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School or Sleep. Why must we choose?

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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.

(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 313 comments. Post your own!

Thinker said...
May 12, 2010 at 2:00 pm:
New suggestion, how about a day of national protest, put some gumption behind our dissatisfaction! We could simply just sit outside on the front lawns of our schools and study our own subjects, this would neither be unlawful, nor would it be irresponsibe protest.
 
makeitso replied...
May 12, 2010 at 4:06 pm :
I love this idea! But how do we get a class of overachievers to not be afraid of this kind of protest? Would that we were unionized like our teachers.
 
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Thinker said...
May 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm:
Your luck, 6am is nothing, some of my friends get up at 4! When it's robotics, or skills season (big things at my school) there are people who get up at 5 and work, at school untill 1 or 2am. I am one of the lucky ones, I only have to get up at 5:30am.
 
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belllover said...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 11:43 am:
This is so true! I completely agree with you on this topic! We can't do everything perfectly with all the pressure teens get from everywhere these days!
 
FedUp replied...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 9:20 pm :
Yes, yes, this is a topic on everyone's minds in high school. The worst thing to deal with is when we have a fairly normal week of work and then the next week we're slammed with 4-5 exams. Seriously, how much creative education can go on in a few days of school that teachers can be ready to test the following week? Enter...4 hours of sleep.
 
Chloe27 replied...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 11:11 am :

I thought the last 2 weeks of school would be relaxing. My teachers threw 5 projects at us! And why do they have finals the very last week of school? Every one is ready to get out, not focus on tests.

 

Also, as the article stated younger kids get to sleep easier. In my district this how school starts  Elementary- 8:10  Middle School- 8:45  High School- 7:40

Elementary should start the earliest, then middle school, and finally high school. I don't... (more »)

 
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CJMurph said...
Apr. 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm:
This article was GREAT!! Being the week before spring vacation, i've had a lot of work due because my teachers want to end the units before we go on vacation. Because of all this work i've been awake for about 36 staright hours with only about 4-5 hours of sleep two nights ago. I would love to go to school later because it would help keep me focused more. Good Job on the article!
 
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ColbyA said...
Apr. 4, 2010 at 7:22 pm:
Exactly right...everything depends on your major in college and the types of courses you took in high school to give you the background for that major. The most important course they could offer in high school is AP Organization! Don't you think?
 
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RichL11 said...
Apr. 4, 2010 at 12:29 am:
There can be no justice for high school students in sophomore and junior years until administration stops pushing the AP courses. We're all overworked and exhausted all the time. When they give h.w. on the holidays too, that's just unconscionable.
 
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Amanda_Reckonwith said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm:
I understand the article; it was well written and presented the argument clearly.
I support the move to have later start times, but there is a method to their madness.
The school schedule was actually designed to accomadate an aggrial society, where kids needed to get home to help with the family chores. That worked way back when. Now, however, parents are working until 5, 6 in the evening, so kids are home alone or running around doing who knows what.
School buses are used by ... (more »)
 
beentheredonethat replied...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 12:11 pm :
This is a good response, but you have to keep in mind that the colleges are running the guidance offices at our high schools...meaning that if they keep insisting that 'a rigorous' program of study equals more than 3 AP courses in junior year, then every kid who wants an IVY or First Rung School is forced into this kind of stress. It's a no win situation.
 
CatGirlPrime replied...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm :

Schools have to follow state and national standards. It's not the college that runs the high schools, although it sounds like it with the colege boards and all the AP classes that faculty would like students to take. The more AP classes a student takes, the idea is that they'll be more prepared for college.

That's how it was explained to me by a couple high school teachers. I don't think it'd vary place to place, but I may be wrong.

 
ColbyA replied...
Apr. 4, 2010 at 12:31 am :
You make good points and I wish I could agree with you, CatGirlPrime, but the truth is, an honors class prepares you for college as well, if it's a seriously taught honors class. The only thing AP classes make us do is spend hours each week writing outlines on textbooks, and freaking out about weekly essay exams. Sorry, college is not like that.
 
Amanda_Reckonwith replied...
Apr. 4, 2010 at 7:15 pm :

I know it's not. The AP classes I took have not helped me in college at all, although the honours classes haven't, either. Depends on the classes taken in college, obviously.

It's just what I was told. It sounds like a good idea, but whether it works or not varies.

 
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bored1`233 said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 9:24 am:
i agree do yyou
 
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Terrencetrue said...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 8:19 pm:
I can absolutely attest to the fact that I am grumpier and less apt to do well in my sports because I also have 5 APs (junior year) and absolutely no time for sleeping. Can't maintain high grades and do sports on 4 horus of sleep a night.
 
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Caputnik said...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 8:14 pm:
Oh please tell me how many years we have to beg our schools to make start times later so we can be awake during our exams.
 
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CarpeDiem said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 12:10 am:
The stats in this article for insulin and blood sugar levels in a student with little sleep are frightening. School boards should pay more attention to the science behind what they're putting high school students through.
 
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Pissedandtired said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 12:25 am:
Another night, another time I read this article and wonder why we can't get our board of education to stop the stupidity and allow classes to start at 8:30?
 
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what'sagirltodo said...
Mar. 15, 2010 at 12:56 am:
right now I'm exhausted from staying up till 2 am to make outlines for my AP classes, and having two essay tests tomorrow. Could you at least make them multiple choice tests so we don't get that stressed!
 
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We'realltired said...
Mar. 10, 2010 at 11:13 pm:
So tired of being tired in school all the time.Junior year is killer and there's no reason to go through such stress. It's harder than any year in college will ever be.
 
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