Many high school students find themselves wandering the halls like zombies trying not to drift to sleep. The reason for this state of mind is simple: sleep deprivation.
Doctors have proven that teenagers need about 9 hours and 15 minutes of sleep each night to concentrate and be alert. But most students sleep for a shorter period before waking up to go to school.
“I sleep for about 6 hours [on an average night],” said Kyle McKinley, senior.
Insufficient sleep has been known to cause many problems both in and out of school. These problems include disciplinary issues, poor concentration, poor grades, and psychological illnesses such as depression, sleeping disorders, and ADHD.
Michael Goff, junior, said that when he receives a sufficient amount of sleep, it affects his mood.
“I feel much more cheerful.”
Mr. Kulp, LRHS substitute teacher, felt the same way. “When I don’t get enough sleep I am very moody and more short-tempered,” he said.
Research shows that needing an alarm clock to wake up, falling asleep in less than 10 minutes, and napping easily are all tell-tale signs of sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, at least one of these symptoms applies to many high school students.
“I need two alarm clocks to wake up in the morning,” said McKinley.
This is a prime example of sleep deprivation. McKinley’s body, like many others, is not on a set schedule, so his internal body clock doesn’t wake him up regularly, explaining the need for not one, but two alarms in the morning.
One study shows that high school students who have an A average go to bed approximately 40 minutes sooner and receive 20 minutes more sleep than students who have C, D, and F averages.
“Sleep deprivation definitely affects your grades. If you don’t sleep enough, it affects [your grades] negatively,” said Seth Pixton, sophomore.
Doctors say that when students deprive themselves of sleep, it is harder to focus and stay focused, and it is much more difficult to complete simple tasks.
Not only does lack of sleep cause grades to suffer, it also puts teenage lives at risk. Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of being ill.
“I stopped getting enough sleep my junior year, when I started taking AP classes. I noticed that I was sick more and my immune system was [bad],” McKinley said.
Lack of sleep can lead to many car accidents.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said, “drowsiness and fatigue cause more than 100,000 traffic accidents each year… young drivers are at the wheel in more than half of these crashes.”
Melatonin, a hormone related to sleep, is made at a later time as you grow older as research at Stanford University shows. This causes teens to fall asleep and wake up later than they did before.
Many believe that early high school starting times creates sleep deprived students.
University of Minnesota researchers noted that high school students who started school at 8:40 slept more on week nights, were less sleepy throughout the entire day, had higher grades, and felt less depressive emotions than their counterparts who started school at 7:15.
Many others at Leesville and around the nation believe that school starts too early. “I think school starts 1 hour too early,” Mr. Argao, LRHS teacher, said.
Pixton agreed that high school should start around 8:30, maybe later, “I think school should start later, maybe one or two hours [later].”
When asked how he thinks it will affect his students, Argao continued, “It will affect [his] first period [positively].”
Kulp would not mind even just 30 more minutes, “I could definitely use 30 more minutes of sleep… It would affect the students in a positive manner, but mostly in first period.”
McKinley, however, disagrees, “the early start time works [for me], I may be tired, but I am not dead, and I enjoy getting out of school early.”
He says that he understands that every grade level cannot be on the same buses and follow the same schedule, and that it is best that the high school students start first, for the above reasons.
Kulp, playing both sides of the argument, also said, “Although I do feel that high school starts a little too early, it’s understandable. It would mess up the other schools’ timing.”
Many question the effect of a later start time on sports and extracurricular activities. However, in Wake County alone, six high schools begin at 8:05 and end at 3:00: Broughton High School, East Wake High School, Green Hope High School, Knightdale High School, Sanderson High School, and Wake Forest- Rolesville.
Even though these schools are let out later, they still have time for sports and extracurricular activities.
Contrary to McKinley’s and many others’ beliefs, scientists have shown that younger children function better, learn more efficiently, and learn to read faster when taught in the morning.
Research points in the direction of later start times, but many disagree with what has been shown and feel that high school starting time should remain the same, just as McKinley does.
Until everyone in the Leesville area can reach a unanimous decision, LRHS will continue to start at 7:25.
One thing is for sure, sleep is a vital part to students’ success, especially as developing young adults.