By: Anshuta Beeram
A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation has revealed that 69% of high school students get seven or less hours of sleep every night. Is sleep deprivation really that big of a deal? Is it really caused by early school start times?
According to an article published by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), teens feel sleepy later at night because of pubertal changes that make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00 pm. Changing sleep habits doesn’t help much either. According to a PubMed article, teens continue to fall asleep at later times even when they follow regulated schedules that allow for sufficient sleep.
A school day at GHS starts at 7:25, and the buses pick us up approximately 45 minutes in advance. In order to get ready for school, we have to get up 30-60 minutes before the bus arrives (sometime between 5:30 and 6). If we fall asleep at 11:00 pm and wake up at 6:00 am, then the most sleep we can get is 7 hours which is 1-3 hours less than we need. And that’s an optimistic estimation too since we often have homework that we’re working on late at night. Glenelg students Rowena Liu and Ava Stamatkis reported that they got between 5-8 hours of sleep on school nights before the COVID pandemic.
Consistently sleeping less than eight hours a night is called chronic sleep deprivation, and it has many dangerous side effects. An article published by the NSF states that drowsy-driving is similar to drunk-driving, and sleep-deprived teen drivers are at an even higher risk for accidents since they also lack experience. Sleep deprivation is associated with many other health problems like mood changes, memory issues, weight gain, and increased risk of diabetes as well.
Additionally, sleep deprivation causes teens to do worse in school. A survey conducted on high school students found that students who get lower grades also get less sleep than students who do better in school. Now that school starts at 9, I can get up at 7:30 instead of 6, and I have felt a lot more focused and productive throughout the day. My grades are higher, and I feel more motivated in school. Not only are earlier start times inconvenient, they are actually counterproductive.
So, yes. Sleep deprivation is a really big deal, and the solution to it is to have school start times later, and to educate teens on the importance of getting enough sleep. The change doesn’t have to be extreme, maybe just moving the first period from 7:25 to 8, but even a small difference can have a huge impact. In addition to starting school later, it’s also important to teach teens how to manage their time and get enough sleep so that they don’t procrastinate as much. I believe that implementing these two policies will help teenagers be healthier and happier, so let’s work together to make this vision a reality when we go back to in-person school. You can sign a petition to change school start times in Howard County by clicking on this link.