Teens are going to sleep later and getting up earlier in the morning. As a result, performance in school is dropping to an unprecedented level, and teens are reaching the point where they are forced to be adults. Stress and homework are piled on our backs, and many parents are pressuring us that if we don’t perk up, that we won’t go to the right college, won’t get a good job, and won’t be as successful as we could be if we were trying our hardest at the high school level. What does sleep have to do with this? Actually, this article is more about changing the hours of the school day.
Are we getting up too early in the morning? Many students in my area get up for school before 6:30 in the morning, and having gone to sleep at 10:30, or even more popular, later than that, sometimes as late as 1:00 in the morning, leaves many of us with only 5-8 hours of sleep. Researchers tell us to get 8 hours of sleep, right? Not all of them. According to Dr. Mary Carskadon of Brown University, 7:25 AM is indeed too early to start school. She has done studies that show a sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, is secreted at about 10:30 P.M. or later. This hormone is produced in response to your bodyís biological clock, and even your hardest, meanest teachers can’t change that. As a result of this, many teens donít get to sleep until 11:30 or midnight. Dr. Helene A. Emsellem, a neurologist with the Sleep Disorder Center, said teenagers should sleep nine hours or more each night. She said that the last hour of sleep, the rapid eye movement sleep, or REM sleep is the most critical time during sleep. Without REM sleep, teens are usually lethargic and may be unable to concentrate for an entire day. In many cases, starting school at 7:25 will cause students to sleep through the first and second periods.
Dr. Ronald Dahl of the University of Pittsburgh says that getting up too early interferes with students’ ability to reason logically and think creatively. Dahl says that many of the teens that are diagnosed with attention deficit or attention deficit hyperactive (ADD, ADHD) may actually be suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. The symptoms for this include irritability, a shortened attention span, and sharp mood swings.
An experiment at the University of Minnesota in 1996 revealed that if the school was started an hour later, it left students more alert. As a result, test scores improved, trips to the health room were cut drastically, fewer students were referred for disciplinary action, and fewer students dozed during class.
Is school going to be changed to a later time for those of us starting at 7:30 or earlier? Maybe, but it is actually not too likely. Transportation by buses becomes nearly impossible if those same buses that pick you up must pick up middle school and elementary students at the same time. Other concerns include extra-curricular activities ending later, and the impact on parent’s schedules. Contact your school principal or county spokesperson for more information.