STARTING SCHOOLS LATER FOR TEENS’ HEALTH

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Sleepy heads and yawns … or just lazy?

Having to wake up at 6 am or even earlier is probably the most hated thing of teenagers about school especially now that they have a lot of things to do, not just academically. Going to school early then be bombarded with all the school works, going home late because of extra-curricular activities then need to accomplish other additional tasks – it is just a cycle. Students can be in school for long hours excluding all the homeworks and after-school activities. Even though students do their best to get all these things done despite the limited time, this may result to low appetite, having illness, loss of focus and alertness in class, and most especially, lack of sleep which often results to sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation among teenagers is an epidemic. Only about 1 out of 10 students gets the recommended hours of sleep every night (8-10 hours) by sleep scientists and pediatricians. A major factor preventing teens from getting the sleep they need is the starting time of schools. This has a direct effect on how much or how little sleep teenagers are getting. They tend to have these unpleasant characteristics when they do not have enough sleep like moodiness, irritability and laziness. They may also have obesity, heart attack and diabetes. The consequences of teen sleep loss goes well beyond the classroom, sadly contributing to the many mental health problems including substance use, depression and suicide.

Sleep is vital to one’s well-being and is food for the brain. During sleep, important body functions and brain activity occur. It can even help manage the stress of being a teen. Researchers found out that at the beginning of adolescence, teenagers experience a delayed sleep phase or delay of sleep timing in the brain where biological sleep patterns shift toward later times for both sleeping and waking. As a result, the adolescent body does not begin to feel sleepy until about 10:45 p.m. Teens stay up later not because they do not want to go to sleep but because they cannot due to the delayed release of melatonin. In other words, the biology of the teenage brain is in conflict with early school start times, whereas sleep patterns of most younger children are in sync with schools that start early.

This petition aims for a later start of classes because across the country, there are many schools that start at 7:30 am or even earlier but the real recommended time to start is no earlier than 8:30 am due to the biological sleeping pattern of teens. This has a lot of benefits and it is a convenient solution for sleep deprivation because teens can get more sleep, can improve their academic performance and get more work done during the day because of increased alertness and efficiency.

Starting school later could help students get more sleep. Starting classes later, closer to when their biological clocks are most ready for learning, could make a real difference in how much knowledge a teen acquires at school.

 



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