Students and the importance of sleep

Teens lacking sleep have trouble staying awake in class, focusing, and being on time. The stress of waking up early leaves students drowsy and rushing to school. (Photo Courtesy of CollegeDegrees360)

Late nights are common for highschoolers. Whether they’re spent doing homework, on social media, or talking with friends, the effects during the day can be detrimental. The recommended amount of sleep for highschoolers is nine to ten hours. For many students though, that amount seems ridiculously long.

The Science: 

Adolescents have a frequent trend of wanting to go to bed later and sleeping in more. This isn’t just a common theme, it’s a natural part of puberty. Scientists believe that hormones are to blame for those late nights. Lots of kids find it difficult to go to bed before nine o’clock, and that’s because they don’t feel the effects of their tired and growing bodies hours later.

Just as children have early bedtimes and wake times, teens have late bedtimes and late wake times. At least, when they’re not in school.  Parents can easily pass this off as being lazy when it’s completely natural for their age.


Teenagers use their phones and social media frequently enough during the day. With most time spent at school, some students spend time well into the night scrolling on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. “These gadgets (which are often equipped with LED displays) emit a very bright light… which are especially harmful to a healthy sleep routine,” Dr. Jay Neitz from the University of Washington School of Medicine said. The blue light can potentially affect the body’s circadian rhythm, which helps you know when it’s time to fall asleep.

When the sun sets, your body naturally releases melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel tired and want to go to bed. Kids with conditions like ADHD might take melatonin supplements to help them fall asleep. Blue light confuses the body and stops the melatonin hormone from releasing.

It’s easy to spend time scrolling on Instagram and not even realize it. “I’ll stay up later if I’m on my phone,” said Chloe Creed, a junior. Sleep specialists recommend putting devices away 30 minutes before heading to bed, or even leaving them out of the bedroom completely to fall asleep effectively.

School Work:

As students go through their school years, the amount of schoolwork increases. Junior year in high school is the peak of student workload. Trying to take as many AP classes as possible while managing grades in other classes,  along with the ACT’S and SAT’S—that proves to be a challenge. Pack that on with applying to college, possibly doing a school sport, and keeping a good GPA is enough to make students want to drop out. So it’s not a surprise most highschoolers fall asleep later than recommended.

Creed has two to three hours of homework every night while also balancing her weekend job. Since she rides the bus, she has to get up earlier than most students at Leesville. She feels that if school started later, she would be able to get an extra hour of sleep. If school times were later in the morning, kids would have more time to do homework, feel more refreshed, and get a good night’s sleep.

School Hours:

It’s recommended that middle schools and high schools start at or after 8:30 a.m., yet according to data from the U.S Department of Education, more than 80% of public schools in the U.S started before that. Almost 10% start before 7:30– Leesville being in that 10%. So why do schools start this early if it’s scientifically proven to be worse for teens’ health?

 The main reason for starting class early is for after school. If an older sibling is in high school and they have a younger sibling in elementary school, schools want that older sibling to look after the kid if the parents have full-time jobs.

Early school times bring stress and haste to students. A common problem arises from the teens that are able to drive to campus. They rush over speed bumps in order to get to the parking lot faster and Leesville’s main intersection is chaotic. 

For a teen to get the recommended 10 hours of sleep, they would have to get to bed by 8 or 9 p.m. if they need to be up for school at 6 a.m. Students who ride the bus to school might have to get up as early as five o’clock depending on the distance from school and their bus route. “Definitely not, no”, was Creeds response to asking if she got enough sleep.

Leesville’s hours are from 7:25 a.m. to 2:18 p.m.

Benefits of later school hours:

Even having a half an hour delay in school times have dramatic benefits to teens’ health— including improving academic scores. With trying to balance extracurriculars and homework, having extra time in the morning would do wonders for students. “It’s a completely local decision, but I’d like to see more school districts at least consider delaying start times,” said  former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Students are less drowsy during class, academic engagement increases, and tardies reduce in numbers. 

With all of these benefits and science, why doesn’t the Wake County school district delay start times? Most of Durham public schools begin at 9 a.m, and they have seen positive results since that change. Should Wake County follow next?



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