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School Start Times: A Wake-Up Call This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Hey, you! Yeah, you. Are you reading this? Or are you so tired from being awake since 6 o'clock that you don't even know what's going on? The cause of this inability to pay attention can be blamed on school days beginning too early. Most schools start classes before 8 a.m., forcing students to wake up at 6 or earlier. If you're up before the sun, then you know there is a problem.

Sleep is fuel for the brain and body. It provides us with the energy we needs to tackle life's tasks. Teenagers have busy lives that require us to be alert. The average teen has six hours of school, then sports or extracurriculars, then dinner, and then homework. This all has to be accomplished in a 24-hour cycle.

Eight to ten hours of sleep each night is what a teen should have to be healthy. But fulfilling this requirement is almost impossible when students have to be awake at 6, ready to repeat their busy day all over again. Kristen Knutson, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says, “On school days adolescents are obtaining less sleep than they are thought to need, and the factor with the biggest impact is school start times.” Starting school at least an hour later would enable teens to get an extra hour of sleep each night, leading to an additional five hours of sleep per week. Students would then be healthier and less sleep deprived.

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue. Lack of sufficient sleep causes humans to be less alert. Simple tasks suddenly become harder. Many students drive to school. Being overtired can cause a driver to be less observant; every year, sleep deprivation causes at least 40,000 car accidents.

Even if students are able to get to school alive, they'll be lucky if they can stay awake to learn. In 2006, the National Sleep Foundation found that 28 percent of students admitted they fall asleep during school, and only 20 percent get at least nine hours of sleep each night.

Just staying awake in class doesn't mean students will learn well. According to schoolstarttime.org, a website created by Dennis Nolan, “Most U.S. high schools schedule classes during the 7 o'clock hour, while melatonin still pressures adolescents to sleep. The vast majority of teenagers attending early starting schools meet the morning bell in a sleep-deprived state.” Students will not learn as well if they are not alert; their grades may drop when they are not awake enough to fully understand what is being taught. Sleep shortage can also cause depression, and fatigue can make teens feel lousy overall. Students who feel terrible may lose motivation and give up.

Getting enough sleep is necessary for teens because our brains and bodies need energy to fulfill the demanding tasks of life. Moving school start times to at least an hour later will give students the extra sleep we need. Grades will go up and teens will feel better about themselves.

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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