Recent scientific studies have indicated that the average American teenager does not get nearly enough sleep to function well.
Only fifteen percent of teens reported sleeping for at least eight hours on school nights. The National Sleep Foundation recently recommended that teenagers should get nine to ten hours of sleep to be healthy and productive in school.
Many adults are quick to blame teens for staying up late, but biology and scheduling have a much greater effect on teen sleep than teen behavior. Scientific evidence shows that teens’ biological clocks shift so they find it difficult to fall asleep before 11 PM and wake up early.
But TGS classes began even earlier this year at 7:50 AM, despite a growing consensus among scientists and doctors to start school later.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics—the most prominent association of pediatricians or children’s doctors—said that high school should begin no earlier than 8:30 AM. Starting any earlier hurts learning and health.
The group of pediatricians recommends delaying high school classes until 9 AM for teens. Several other Tucson high schools currently start classes at 8:30 AM or later.
This lost sleep affects teens’ biological clocks, harms the quality of their sleep, and weakens their performance in class significantly.
If a student were to fall asleep right at 11 PM, they would only be able to get seven hours of sleep and manage to make it to school by 7:50 AM. That is 2 to 3 hours less than doctors recommend, but it is even worse for people who live far away from school and must get up even earlier.
TGS students say they do not get nearly enough sleep. When asked if she believed she had enough sleep, freshman Elena Acuña said, “No, not at all.” Numerous other students share this sentiment backed by the recommendations of doctors.
Before we can arrive at a solution that will solve our sleep problem, we must find what is causing the lack of sleep in TGS students. According to Acuña, this lack of sleep is caused by “homework and just not having enough time in general during the day.”
The average TGS Upper School Student has several hours of homework per night in addition to athletics and other extracurricular obligations which cause students to get home quite late.
Many teens suffer from sleep disorders like narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea. Senior Triahna Johnston has restless leg syndrome. She explained, “Basically you’re mentally tired … your body is exhausted.” Other TGS students have fallen asleep in class and almost all students are either very drowsy or drinking coffee during A and E Block.
Is it possible for students to balance school, socializing, and sleeping, while getting a healthy balance of each? Eric Johnson says yes. “I’m only a sophomore so I don’t have a lot of homework and I have free blocks … I’m able to sleep longer,” says Johnson.
Acuña disagrees, and said, “No, not if you want to get good grades.”
Students and scientists agree: the solution to a lack of teen sleep is to start school later to align with teens’ biological clocks.
When asked if they would welcome a similar change, junior Tori Sublette said, “Most definitely.” Every single student I spoke to agreed.
But last year’s schedule change went in the wrong direction by moving classes even earlier, eliminating weekly 9 AM late starts, and imposing harsh punishments for being late. It left TGS students with even less time to sleep.
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