Solution to Student Sleep Deprivation

Sleep: without it, you’re dead in about eleven days. The CDC, or Center for Disease Control, has linked sleep deprivation to things like mental illness, issues with learning and behavior, substance abuse, and obesity. It’s important. More than that, it’s enjoyable. There are few things more precious to a student than sleep. If it’s so important (and it is), then why doesn’t everyone get the recommended 9 hours of sleep every night? Why are students falling asleep in class and trudging through the halls like they just awoke from the dead?

For one, the Nationwide Childrens Hospital has found that teenagers have a natural sleep cycle that differs from that of adults by about two to three hours. So while adults feel tired around 9 p.m., teenage brains don’t release melatonin (the chemical responsible for leading us to sleep) until 12:00 a.m. In order to get in a full 9 hours, you’d have to wake up at 9:00 a.m.,which just is not possible for any high school student.

In New Jersey, over 75% of schools start before the earliest time recommended by the CDC, which is 8:30 (Morris Hills is about on par with the national average, at 8:03). At the latest, students have to wake up at 7:00 to catch the bus, and it isn’t surprising that the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) found that more than half of high school students get less than seven hours of sleep a night.

In response to this, the NSF reports, 80 school districts nationwide have decided to push back their start times in order to help tired teens. A school district in Minnesota has pushed their start time from a ghastly 7:20 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., to provide an extra hour and a twenty minutes of rest.

Shifts like this almost always result in better-rested, better-performing students, but it does create some logistical problems. The district would have to rework the transportation system, and extracurricular activities would run even later into the day if we started school later. Ultimately, it’s up to the district, and Morris Hills may have to tackle the issue of healthy rest in the future. But please, just let the students sleep.