Too Fatigued!

Sleep deprivation is a crisis facing teens. It affects their health, their safety, and their learning.

The Center for Disease Control has made a recommendation to schools regarding the sleep crisis facing the nation’s teenagers: Start the school day later.  According to the CDC, “Teens need 8.5--9.25 hours of sleep per day.” By those standards, most teens are severely sleep-deprived. I routinely ask
the high school students in my programs how much sleep they get on a school
night; the majority admit to six hours. That statistic appears consistent with
national studies. According to research at the University of Kentucky as reported
in Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children, “They’re averaging only slightly more than 6.5 hours of sleep a night. Only 5% of high school seniors average eight hours . . . That amounts to an hour less sleep each night than (their parents) received thirty years ago.” 

While that may seem an insignificant difference to adults, that hour is critical for teens, whose pre-frontal cortex (the part engaged in learning) develops until they reach their mid-twenties.  Sufficient sleep is critical to academic performance and emotional well-being.  According to the authors of Nurtureshock, “A few scientists theorize that sleep problems during formative years can cause permanent changes in a child’s brain structure.  . . It’s even possible that many of the hallmark characteristics of being a ‘tweener’ and teen—moodiness, depress, and even binge eating—are actually just symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.”  A variety of research studies indicate the disquieting consequences resulting from
insufficient sleep.  For instance, Dr. Sadeh, of Tel Aviv University asserts, “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to the loss of to a loss of two years of cognitive maturation and development.”

Schools can remedy this rampant crisis by instituting later daily starting times for teens. The results can be startling. One Minneapolis school district changed its starting time from 7:25 to 8:30. That year, the district witnessed a dramatic rise in the average SAT scores—over 200 points! Students also reported less depression and higher motivation.  When the schools in Lexington, Kentucky, instituted a later starting time, car accidents amongteenagers decreased by 25% compared with other districts in the state.  Even though anecdotal, the possibility for positive change should be enough evidence that the schedules should favor students.

While early starting times may suit the adults involved in schools, (teachers, aides, administrators, etc.) districts must put the well-being of their students first!

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DMorrison August 26, 2012 at 01:27 AM
I doubt I could keep up with a high schooler's schedule. A rigorous daily routine of paying attention in difficult classes to get great grades, take on leadership positions and extra curricular activities that wear you out directly after school, then come home for a short break, only to hit the books again until midnight. I'm tired already. The later start time sounds smart. Younger children tend to get up earlier for school anyway, because they can go to bed early. Let the teens take the later shift, it only makes sense.
Wilson August 26, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Not even sure where to start here? How about less emphasis on sports and more emphasis on learning and getting to bed early. How about less play station time late at night. Studies have shown late night gaming causes less restful sleep and thus poorer academic performance. Regarding the early dismissal. How about doing what some public schools and many charter schools are doing (to proven success) and that is longer days and more of them. Also at Daniel Hand in Madison, High School students have three trimesters of learning in which they take math and science only 2 of the 3 trimesters. Can someone point out the study in which less a math and science seems to have proven successful? I know in Guilford students take a full year of math and science and Guilford out scored us last year in the Connecticut rating of schools. Getting more sleep may be part of the answer but what is required is a re-evaluation of the educational priorities that focus on long term success and not short-term happiness. (and don't get me going why on Sunday mornings more parents are satisfied to have their children on playing fields then in Churches and Temples).
Leslie Yager August 26, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Yes, Wilson...or reading a book for pleasure. Or playing chess. Or having some time to be "bored" and be creative.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. August 27, 2012 at 03:29 AM
The research on this subject is crystal clear. But politics, myth, and human nature typically keep schools from prioritizing student health and well-being when they draw up the academic schedule, and it may take collective action on a national scale to change this, The good news is this is starting to happen, in large part due to social media. For more information, see www.StartSchoolLater.net and our online petition (tinyurl.com/82leprp).
Laura I. Maniglia August 27, 2012 at 11:01 AM
I'll sign the petition and urge everyone I know to do the same!


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