Sleep Deprivation of High School Students

Students and faculty combat sleep deprivation in schools

National Institutes of Health estimates that only 9 percent of high school students are actually meeting the recommended minimum of 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can lead to mental health issues, issues with learning and behavior, substance use and abuse, and a higher risk for obesity. Because teenagers are naturally hardwired to go to sleep later and wake up later, the current 8:00 start time for school is a leading factor to sleep deprivation in teens. Senior Caitlin McAndrew Beckman spoke to the school board about pushing the start time back.

“When I went to the school board I just said, based on a lot of research that’s very credible with sleep habits and amount of sleep students need it would be in the best interests for the school board to switch the hours so we could have a later start time,” McAndrew Beckman said.

Teenagers have different natural body clocks than adults, which affects their sleep cycles. In her research McAndrew Beckman focused on Individual Circadian rhythms.

“A lot of the research I did was based off of like your individual circadian rhythms which is basically your inner sleep clock,” McAndrew Beckman said.

A fair amount of teenagers will use the excuse that it is possible to run off two hours of sleep efficiently. This is in fact a misconception.

A big concern about pushing back start times is how it will affect extracurricular activities. The concern is that if the district pushes back the start time sports will go longer and it will not help the issue. Senior Jax Egan expressed this concern after sitting in on a school board meeting.

“I think they’ll find a way to work around it,” Egan said. “It would make everyone get home a little later, but with going to school a little later it’s just a sacrifice you have to make.”

McAndrew Beckman who is a student athlete touched on this as well.

“If we schedule the school day properly to where you don’t have to stay super super late and you’re still able to go to sports practice around the same time…I think that it won’t affect them as much as students think it will affect them,” McAndrew Beckman said.

Shannon Kimball, Former School Board President and President-elect of the Kansas Association of School Boards spoke about their plans to avoid this issue.

“This is one of the areas that staff will be investigating further before we make the change so that we better understand the potential impacts,” Kimball said.

The current plan the district is working on is to start at 8:30 or later. This plan should enact in the 2020-2021 school year, giving the school board time to work out the kinks. Egan who sat in on the monthly meeting spoke about how the discussion went and his opinion on the start times.

“I think it could be a good idea as long as you allow students to have creativity and work around their extracurriculars,” Egan said. “If you are going to push it back maybe my idea was add an extra hour to the end of the day so there are 8 available hours so students can take 7.”

Pushing back the start time could help students get closer to the recommended amount of sleep per night. This should affect their moods, learning ability, and overall productiveness. Other Districts across the United States have started implementing later start times, and the results show.

“Data from districts that have made this change has shown a positive impact on student achievement, health, and safety,” Kimball said. “Seattle is a good example of a district that made this change and then had to go back and tweak some of the changes to better meet student and parent needs.”

The expectation is that students will get more sleep; But whether or not this will happen is up to the students.