According to the BBC teens need more sleep than children and adults but we get less than both age groups. The reason could be because of how early school starts, making it completely out of our control. As many of us already know, going to sleep early is an unrealistic goal because of homework, sports, work etc, and drinking coffee is only a temporary solution that makes our teeth yellow. How many of us really get enough sleep? According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior survey conducted with more than 50,000 high school students in 2011-2013, about 69% of U.S. high school students get less than eight hours of sleep on school nights and 40% get less than six hours of sleep. About 87% of high school students get less than the recommended 9-10 hours of sleep. To put that in perspective here at TL about 981 of our 1,135 students don’t get enough sleep, that is roughly three in every four students.
Our teenage years are some of the most important years of our life because our brains are still growing, especially our prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain we need in adulthood to make decisions wisely. In our teenage years we rely on our amygdala (the inner part of our brain close to the hippocampus) to make decisions. Downside to that is the amygdala is associated with emotions, aggression, and impulse. There are also many hormonal imbalances in our bodies because of puberty that causes our sleep to be best between 11pm and 8am.
More than 82.5% of U.S. public middle and high schools have start times earlier than those recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC 10% of high schools start before 7:30 am., 42.5% before 8 am., and 14.4% at 8:30 am. or later. The Novato Unified School District and San Rafael City Schools have been considering starting schools later. Cindy Greenberg a pediatrician at Sutter Health here in San Rafael says it’s unfair that we have to wake up so early, “You force them to get up because the custodians, the buses, the teachers are on certain schedules, but it doesn’t fit with teenagers’ circadian rhythms.” The CDC says in high school about 20-30% students fall asleep in class; making 226 – 339 of our students fall asleep in class and helping them learn nothing.
Insufficient sleep in teens has a direct correlation to obesity, migraines, immune system disruption and health risk behaviors: some including smoking, drinking, stimulant abuse, physical fighting, depression, suicidal tendencies, and physical inactivity. Steve Troya, the Terra Linda coach of the golf team, doesn’t seem excited with the idea, stating that “If school were to start later in the morning, that would be horrible, the worst decision ever for a coach. The girls are in school until around 3:20 p.m. They get out around 2:20 p.m. for a 3 p.m. match. If school started later, they would miss more school time on match day.” From a coach’s point of view I could understand, although from a parents or students point of view his reasoning does not hold. Putting kids at a 40% higher risk into getting in a car accident is not worth it, just to miss less school for a match. If the kids have the grades they can qualify to play a sport. This also means that they have good enough grades and permission to miss a couple of hours of school. I never heard a student complain about leaving early, have you? So why would this be an issue.
A study done by the University of Minnesota and Centers for Disease Control and prevention saw that with students that start school later consume fewer caffeinated drinks. What’s so bad with drinking coffee? Coffee and caffeinated drinks cause insomnia, stomach upsets, nausea and vomiting, headaches, agitation, anxiety, ringing in ears and irregular heartbeats. Coffee once in awhile is okay, but when it becomes an everyday thing it promotes ulcers. An ulcer is a sore or welt that is caused by helicobacter pylori bacteria; because caffeine weakens the stomach lining it is easier for the bacteria to hold causing Ulcers. They take months to fully recover from and gives really painful chest or abdominal pain. Trying to take a test with an ulcer would be impossible, you’d be so distracted with the pain. And sports would be out of the question resulting in having to miss most or all of the season.
If we were to start school later we will see improved students and student behavior, a safer community, and healthy graduates that become active citizens. This guarantees the success of our future in and out of this community.