High Schools vs Sleep
By Joey Beitler (‘24)
Many high school students complain about their lack of sleep. According to njspotlightnews.org, “39% of students in school are tired.” So, this begs the question, should schools push back the opening and closing hours? Why do schools open so early? How important is sleeping in the first place?
Before those questions get answered, there is another one that needs to be addressed first: why don’t students just go to sleep earlier if they are so tired during school? It may be due to a sleep disorder called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS); something most teens experience where “a person’s sleep is delayed by two hours or more... The delayed sleep then causes difficulty in being able to wake up at the desired time,” per Stanfordhealthcare.
Also, blue light, the type of light that radiates off of electronics such as phones, computers, and TVs, further prevents up to three hours of sleep according to webmd.com. So, in a day and age where most schoolwork is done online, it is almost impossible for high school students to go to sleep early.
Sleep not only helps people recharge their batteries, but it also helps them fight off diseases.
In an article posted on the government website for the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the “ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.” Considering that the average teenager only gets seven hours of sleep, compared to the recommended amount of nine hours, high school students are at a higher risk to suffer from these illnesses.
Sleep impacts mental health too. Poor sleep impacts alertness and concentration as well as allowing our “brains to consolidate our memories and process information,” mentalhealth.org reported.
Also, insufficient sleep can lead to many other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. During school, students need to be at the top of their game to succeed, so not getting enough sleep makes a huge difference when it comes to issues like grades.
Now the big question: should high schools open later? There is no clear answer to this question. About 10,000 high schools nationwide did an experiment where they pushed school times back 70 minutes, and the students and parents filled out surveys of how they were doing at the beginning and end of the year. USNews.com reported that high school students “were able to get an extra 3.8 hours of sleep a week,” and “more than 10% said they were sleeping better and 20% reported less daytime sleepiness.”
However, in order to do this in most districts, elementary schools would have to open earlier so that bus schedules would not change. In that same experiment, elementary schools were pushed up an hour. Naturally, students and parents of younger children did not like this because, as studies show, elementary school students need 1-2 more hours of sleep than high school students.
Although South Brunswick High School did just push back the start time and move up the end time, it has more to do with transportation issues and less to do with the student needs. Thus, it looks as if current times are (mostly) here to stay.