April 24, 2018

Guest Column

Teenagers need more sleep

May 19, 2011

By Dustin Peters

You are up until 11:30 p.m. studying for an important math test the next morning. When you finally decide you’re ready for the test, you get into bed. You then are up past midnight worrying about the test.

Beep! Beep! Its 6:45 a.m. and your alarm clock goes off. Half awake, you struggle to wake up. You groggily take a shower, get dressed and eat breakfast, or maybe you have to skip breakfast, in order to make it to the bus on time. You get on the bus, and half an hour later you are at school, simultaneously trying to learn and stay awake.

It sounds unreal the way millions of teens start their days, but this is true. And to think, this is how they are supposed to get a good education. It has been claimed by many medical organizations that teens need at least nine hours of sleep a night, and most teens don’t get this much. Teens are also one of the biggest worrying groups of people there are: they worry about things like school (go figure), and this keeps them up.  It has also been discovered that teenagers’ brains produce a brain hormone called melatonin later at night, which makes it hard for teens to fall asleep at night.

There is a simple solution to these problems – start school at 9 a.m.!

Because of things like homework, or just because they can’t fall asleep, most teens get much less than the required nine hours of sleep. I took a survey of 15 students and asked when they went to bed. One went to bed at 10 p.m., six people went to bed at 10:30 p.m., three people went to bed at 11 p.m., four people went to bed at 11:30 p.m., and one fell asleep after midnight. All of them said they fell asleep later. Out of the 15 people, 13 said that they think they would do better in school if they weren’t as tired.

The bottom line is that teens need nine hours of sleep, and out of the 15 kids only one of them was really getting that much. They wake up in the morning very tired, and then have to go to school.

“The eyes are open but the brain is asleep,” said Dr. Mary Carskadon, director of Chronobiology at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I., in a March 17 article in “The ConVal Current” (www.convalcurrent.com).

Another issue teens have with getting up early is that they worry a lot. They worry about things like school, sports, homework, and their physical appearance. This is a huge factor in their sleep troubles. Because they are busy worrying, they don’t fall asleep. Everyone has had one of those nights where they toss and turn, and no matter what you do you just can’t fall asleep. Maybe it’s because you have a big event in the morning, or maybe it’s for no reason at all — you just can’t get to sleep.

Teens’ internal clocks are messed up because a brain hormone called melatonin is produced for them later at night, making it harder to fall alseep. Teens are given a bad rap for going to bed late and waking up late but scientists have discovered that this hormone is a big reason for keeping teens up. If teens are up all night because of this, then they need extra hours of sleep in the morning. If they are waking up early in the morning for school, they aren’t able to do this. High school students are woken up even earlier than other students, and they need the most sleep! Wouldn’t it make sense for the little kindergarten students who wake up at 6:30 a.m. anyway to go to school earlier?

Of course there is another side to the story. A problem with school starting later would be that after-school activities would have to be moved forward an hour. Things like soccer in the fall might still be going when it’s dark out. A possible solution to this is moving some fall sports indoors, or placing lights in the fields. Also, if kids are tired, they won’t be awake for sports, either.

Another problem is that many parents’ work schedules would be messed up if school started at 9 a.m. I think parents should just learn to change their schedules to accommodate the change in schedule because their kids need sleep. But, if they won’t do that, they can always teach their kids to get ready on their own for school. Some of them would have to start taking the bus. The result will be that teens would be much more rested.

Teenagers need more sleep. There is no way around it. If a kid sleeps through high school, they sure aren’t going to be getting any scholarships. If a kid sleeps through middle school, they sure aren’t going to be ready for high school.


Dustin Peters is an eighth grade student at Williston Central School.


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