By Carley Watman
As summer approaches and the painful sounds of early morning alarm clocks begin to fade, the issue of sleep deprivation in teens deserves more attention. Most teens experience some kind of fatigue. Looking back on many tired days, the cause seems relatively clear. Teens need roughly 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night, while on average, teens in America get 6 to 7 hours of sleep.
What happens when students don’t get enough sleep? Lack of sleep affects a teen’s decision making and overall academic performance. An insufficient amount of sleep weakens the cognitive process and affects one’s ability to think, learn, remember and recall information. “I feel that it’s so much easier to become sad or emotional or unfocused when I’m tired,” explained E Jeremijenko-Conley. “When I am feeling awake it’s a lot easier to be optimistic and enthusiastic in my classes,” she said. Losing sleep has long term effects. The inability to sleep can lead to obesity, depression and anxiety. It takes a toll on both mental and physical health. In fact, there is an increase in car crash rates connected with those who do not get enough sleep. In the immediate sense, a lack of sleep makes it more difficult to concentrate, problem solve and reason. This makes it harder to learn. Knowing what we know about the science of sleep, it seems clear that more sleep would result in more learning.
The reality is that teens across America are not getting enough sleep, and this includes students at LREI. When asked if he would consider a later school start time, Micah Gottlieb, LREI’s High School Principal, said that he would be hesitant to start and end at a later time because this would effect extra curricular activities, including sports and activities coordinated with other schools. Instead, he believes we can achieve a balance between extra curriculars and homework while getting the sleep we need. Micah explained, “We want you to be ready. A part of that is getting a good night’s sleep so that you can absorb everything that you learned. We try to have that balance. The important thing is that if that balance isn’t happening for any student, you need to let us know so that we can help.” LREI does start later than most high schools in America, which on average start at 8:00 am.
While it sometimes seems impossible to go to sleep and wake up early, it should be prioritized. Allowing healthier sleeping behaviors by beginning school at a later time would result in smarter, more energized students. But until that becomes a reality for students in America, we have to take matters into our own hands. While it sometimes seems impossible to go to sleep early and wake up early, it makes for a better school day.