The Dangers Of Teen Sleep Deprivation: Benefits Of Adopting Later Start Times For High Schools

3411 words - 14 pages

“Bueller?…Bueller?” The monotone history teacher appearing in the popular 1980’s film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” proceeds to take role-call in his morning history class: a positively lethargic group of students, comically struggling to stay awake. As the teacher monotonously pronounces each name on the attendance list, one student gives a deadpan stare, mouth slightly agape and eyes drooping, while another student can’t beat the fatigue and sleeps with his head on his desk as a trickle of drool escapes his mouth. While this comic scene takes place on a Hollywood set, it is not far removed from many classroom situations across the country as Aarthi Belani, a high school student from Minnesota, notes about the 7:20 a.m. chemistry class she took her junior year. “It was an ungodly hour to be studying chemistry,” she recalls with a shiver; “In the first period, 75 percent of the kids would have their heads down on their desk at one time or another” (Bettelheim 4). Students in high schools from Maine to California find it equally grueling to stay awake during their morning classes since more and more schools choose to open their doors at the crack of dawn, many around 7:30 a.m. and some as early as 7:05 a.m. Dr. James B. Maas, a sleep expert and psychology professor at Cornell University, found that on average, 20 percent of high school students are so fatigued that they sleep at some point during the school day each week (Crombie 2). That’s a lot of beat kids in this country, a fact which has countless sleep experts, lawmakers, parents and teachers alarmed by the groggy state of America’s youth. High schools in this country simply start too early. Teenagers are being forced to ignore their bodies’ natural sleep/wake patterns in order to be in class at dawn. The result of such early high school start times is a country full of sleep deprived teens who, studies show, are more likely to suffer health problems and diminished academic performance. Teen sleep deprivation is a major problem infecting this country, and it continues to spread as high schools open their doors at earlier hours. If America wants to raise a generation of healthy, successful, and well educated young adults, then high schools must join the fight against teen sleep deprivation and open their doors at later, more reasonable hours.

Teenagers are notorious for staying up late. And late nights coupled with early-morning high school start times means kids are losing a great deal of valuable sleep. Sleep experts now know that teenagers need, in fact, more sleep than adults and children. Sleep studies have found, and Dr. Maas concludes that “adolescents need a minimum of 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep each night to be fully alert during the day” (Crombie 2). Statistics show, however, that few young people even come close to getting their required amount of sleep, with only 15 percent sleeping 8 ½ hours or more during the week (Finger 2). The majority of America’s...

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