It Works on Wednesdays

We still have the double. We still have lunch. We still have classes. We still have meeting time. We still get out of school before 3:00. So, why don’t we make everyday a late start like Wednesday? Classes are only about five to ten minutes shorter on Wednesday, yet students get an extra hour of sleep. I, and the majority of the student body, can go on and on about how great that extra hour in the morning is, but to validate my claim, I did a little bit of research regarding the true importance of what may seem like a measly sixty minutes. To start, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine says that teens require an average of 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night. Assuming that the average, student wakes up for school at 6:30 am, in order to meet the recommended minimum hours of sleep, that student would have to go to bed at around 9:15 at night. I can’t speak for every student, but I am very confident that few of us, if any, go to bed, let alone are asleep before 10 o’clock. This is not because we like to stay up late and we like waking up with bags under our eyes, it is simply because we are very busy. Many of us do not get home until 6 o’clock, or even later if we have an event after school. Assuming we want to get the recommended 9 1/4 hours of sleep each night, we are left with only about three or four hours to do homework (in five or more subjects), take a shower, eat dinner, and not completely ignore our families in the process. There are just not enough hours to do all these things before 9 o’clock, so we have no choice but to stay up late in order to get everything done. We go to bed late at night and are forced to get up early in the morning. Therein lies the problem. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens suffer from serious sleep deprivation due to late nights and early morning. So, you might suggest giving teenagers less homework and then they will be able to go to bed earlier.

This would help, no doubt, but would not solve the problem. The true reason that teens as a whole go to bed so late is due to a hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps to control your sleep and wake cycles.  Our bodies have internal clocks that control our natural cycle of sleeping and waking. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid-to-late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then drop in the early morning hours. However, when a child is going through adolescence, their biological clock resets, thus causing the melatonin secretion to occur later at night, making it more difficult for him to fall asleep.  The melatonin secretion also turns off later in the morning, making it more difficult for the teen to wake up early. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teens are most alert in the evening and may not even feel tired until 10 p.m. or later.  Consequently, they are still very tired when their alarm clock rings in the early morning. A teen’s body is telling him to go to bed late and wake up late, but the school administration is telling him to do something else. A Brown University professor observed, “Given that the primary focus of education is to maximize human potential, then a new task before us is to ensure that the conditions in which learning takes place address the very biology of our learners.”  If this professor is correct and the purpose of an education is to help students reach their full potential, then doesn’t it make sense to have students in school when they are most alert and able to achieve their full academic potential?

Lack of sleep can lead to difficulty paying attention during classes, difficulty problem solving and applying good judgment, moodiness, decreased reaction times, decreased motivation and even health problems.  In 1999, California Representative Zoe Lofgren sought out to solve these problems, proposing legislation which would encourage school boards to change the high school start time to better coincide with a teen’s biological clock. She named her legislation the “ZZZ’s to A’s Act”, citing that more sleep would directly correlate with better performance in school. The schools that adopted Lofgren’s idea to start no earlier than 8:30 am saw amazing results. Students were doing better on tests, being nicer to one another and had a much more positive attitude at school. I firmly believe that by starting school at 9 o’clock every morning at St. Luke’s, we will see these same results. Students are not lazy, they are just tired.

 

— Kelly Adams, Staff Writer

Posted by on November 21, 2014. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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