Teenagers and the Roadblocks to Getting More Sleep

Germantown Friends students have a lot on their plate: one has to be a good student and an athlete for school, a good child/grandchild/sibling/family member, maybe one has an extracurricular or two, and a social life on top of all that, and one also needs some time to relax and unwind. And, of course, time to sleep. But often, sleeping time is the first to go in this balancing act.

Picture this: a (still growing) 12- or 13-year-old middle school student stays up until 12am finishing his or her homework. The student falls asleep around 12:30 or 1 because maybe they checked their Instagram or read a book or couldn’t sleep. Said student wakes up around 6:30, showers, gets dressed, and catches SEPTA or a ride from a parent, guardian or sibling. This student then falls asleep in 1st or 2nd period math class. This student is then woken up, and their math teacher likely won’t be happy.

Sleep deprivation is a daily occurrence for some middle schoolers, with negative effects on students’ grades, their social life, their family life, their health, and so much more. This problem may not affect sixth graders as much, because they do not get nearly as much homework as the upper grades, especially 8th grade. Many teenagers get a mere 3/4 of their recommended 9 hours of sleep. Eleven- and twelve-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours of sleep.

Sleep, as demonstrated by countless studies, is one of the best medicines, with endless benefits such as improved performance on tests and quizzes, better mood, improved memory, and increased cognitive activity. All of these attributes would benefit a student, especially one preparing for high school or college. It’s difficult to argue against the fact that sufficient sleep is one of the most crucial things a student should do for their health. Yet, many schools defend their start times with the fact that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to push back start times.

Pushing back start times just an hour would help students stress less and gain more of the health benefits one receives with good sleep. If you think about it, many preschools and kindergartens start at 9am or later, and they still get plenty of time in their day. A 9-to-4 school day would benefit students in the morning while still leaving them enough time in the afternoons. Even an hour more of sleep has a measurable impact on the quality of the stressful, nerve-wracking and emotional lives of teenagers.

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Read more about sleep and how you can get more of it at http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150903131738.htm#.VemGnPgOuLk.email

image credit: https://sites.imsa.edu/acronym/files/2012/09/student_sleeping.jpg