On most school days, teens across the United States sit in classrooms, heads on hands, slowly dozing into a dreamy abyss.
All students have had the feeling of a heavy head, eyelids slowly fluttering closed while listening to a teacher. Being a teenager myself, I have witnessed many students suffering from sleep deprivation. Every night, students struggle to get a normal amount of sleep. This translates to a daily struggle in the classroom. The problem happens throughout the day, but especially in the morning. Students lose focus and have a hard time paying attention. A sedentary classroom is a perfect opportunity to grab a few minutes of much needed sleep.
Sleep-deprived teens have a hard time focusing while in school, but a lack of awareness in school is not the only problem created by a shortage of sleep. Missing sleep during the week along with bad sleep habits on the weekend presents teens with a host of problems. Young adults are still in the growing process and need enough sleep to regenerate both their minds and bodies. According to some of the latest research, teens who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors, including smoking, drinking, drug use, and fighting, among others.
If teens are dragging throughout the day, their judgment will worsen, and their decision-making will lose its edge as they muddle along. This can clearly lead to problems, especially at a time when teens are beginning to drive, as well as building their futures.
One solution to add more sleep to a student's schedule is to add more time. In a new move that is becoming popular, many schools across the country are starting the day later for high school students. However, this in turn pushes the end of the day’s schedule back. Some might argue that a later start to the school day would just see students staying up longer at night, but since they’re already staying up late with a normal day, it seems reasonable that a delayed start would be more beneficial in the long run.
Another solution could simply be making the school day shorter so students have more time for homework.
Principal Terry Young, the head of an elementary school in Portland, and this writer’s father, says, “I agree with the research that teens need more sleep, and believe that it is true. However, I believe that some of it falls on families to stress that teenagers turn off their devices and go to bed.” He also said that he sees a difference in kids who are clearly tired, compared to those who are well-rested.
As for students, many have their own opinions. Vipul Periwal, an honors student at Cheverus High, wishes he could get more sleep. “With the amount of work that we get in school, it is impossible to balance work, grades, a social life, and sleep,” he says. Periwal believes that students need more sleep, but it is hard to find time in this day and age.
There is definitely an issue with amount of sleep that teens across our country are getting, and students everywhere are suffering the consequences of a lack of energy during the day. We need to give our old system a much-needed reboot, and find a way to get students back on track.
Andrew Young is a sophomore at Cheverus High School in Portland.