A recent report from the CDC found that over 75% of public schools in 40 states begin the school day earlier than 8:30 a.m., with high school students not getting the eight to ten recommended hours of sleep each night because teens have a built-in biological inclination to fall asleep later in the evening.
Frano Katalinic writes for The Huffington Post that most school systems do not seem to recognize that a lack of sleep can lead to destructive effects. If there is not a significant shift in school starting times across the country and much-needed public support, high school students will continue being at risk of fatigue, stress, and depression.
She adds that the US mentality of valuing production over health and happiness is harming American youth. Scientific information shows that lack of sleep decreases students’ retention capabilities and their ability to process information. It affects biological sleep cycles and creates a learning atmosphere for the teens that is negative.
In a study of Chicago’s public high schools, researchers found that absences increased and academic performance decreased when they compared earlier class times to classes that took place later in the school day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discovered that:
“… studies comparing high schools with start times as little as thirty minutes earlier versus those with later start times demonstrate such adverse consequences as shorter sleep duration, increased sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, behavior problems, and absenteeism.”
Most parents, if asked what worried them most about their teen-aged children, were likely to say their teens are not getting enough sleep. Many adolescents stay up until after midnight and get up for a school opening bell that sometimes rings well before 8:00 a.m., reports Kelly Wallace of CNN.
A study by the CDC has found that teenagers who were getting under seven hours of sleep on school nights were also more apt to take risks such as drinking and driving, texting and driving, riding with someone who has been drinking, and not wearing a seat belt.
Janet Croft, chief of the epidemiology and surveillance branch of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the co-authors of the study, said:
“It was rather surprising to find such an impact of short sleep duration on these injury-related behaviors and suggests that sleep deprivation may play an important role in poor judgment and decision-making among adolescents.”
In 2014, the AAP issued a statement recommending that American schools begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. so that teens could get the suggested 8.5 to 9.5 hours of nightly sleep. A majority of schools did not comply.
Maribel Ibrahim, co-founder of Start School Later, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness to the link between sleep and school hours, says our society does not respect sleep. In the US, adults often brag about the fact that they can get by with only a few hours of sleep.
Approximately 69 out of 100 high school students get less sleep than they need, which is defined as seven hours or less of sleep on the average school night. Prior analysis showed that sleep deprivation is linked to workplace accidents, car crashes, and sports injuries.
The recommended hours of sleep for adults is seven to nine hours per night. Past CDC studies found that roughly a third of adults get less sleep than is necessary, reports Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press.