Are you getting enough sleep?

Are you getting enough sleep?

By Bryan Walker
Sleep
… how much do teens really need? Teenagers should be getting
between 9 and 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night, but the average teen
gets just between seven and 7 1/2 hours of sleep. That’s two hours
less!
By Bryan Walker

Sleep … how much do teens really need? Teenagers should be getting between 9 and 9 1/2 hours of sleep a night, but the average teen gets just between seven and 7 1/2 hours of sleep. That’s two hours less!

One of the major factors contributing to this sleep deprivation is that teens get up so early. School starts at 8am at most California schools. That’s pretty early for most teens. Cornell University’s psychologist, James B. Maas, Ph.D., says that school starting at 8am is “tantamount to abuse.” Kayla Meazell and Erin Sterner, both sophomores at Gilroy High School, say that they wouldn’t mind school starting later. Yet both said they wouldn’t want it to go longer in the afternoon. Erin, though, said she would be willing to go to school a week longer or start school a week earlier if school started at 9am.

When making the school schedule, policy makers may not have taken into account all the things society and teachers are pressuring teens to do. Whether it’s teens having sports after school or practices for other extracurricular activities, the workload of the average teenager is more than many realize, not to mention all the homework that teens get from their teachers. On average, teens have close to two or three hours of homework a night. That’s after the sports, meetings or family commitments they have to attend. And they’re expected to do all this between 3pm and 9pm? Yeah, right. Besides, teens aren’t ready to go to bed at 9pm or 9:30pm.

Scientists have discovered a developmental phase around puberty called “delayed sleep phase syndrome,” which resets a teenager’s internal clock and causes many to become “night owls.” It also means that you want to sleep later in the morning.

So, when teens don’t want to get up in the morning, it’s not because they’re being lazy, it’s just that their internal clock is just a little tweaked. It’s not a surprise why teenagers stay up on instant messenger, talk on the phone, watch television, or play video games at 10pm or 11pm at night. Psychologically and biochemically, they aren’t ready to go to bed at 9pm or 9:30pm, to get up at 6am or 6:30am.

Sleep deprivation among teenagers is a serious problem, and students’ schedules and the delayed sleep phase syndrome don’t help the situation. School staring at 8am causes students to be fatigued at a time when they need to be most alert.

What’s more, a 1998 survey of more than 3,000 high school students stated that students who were getting C’s, D’s and F’s, were getting about 25 minutes less sleep and going to bed about 40 minutes later than those students receiving A’s and B’s. In the interest of better teen health, perhaps over-booked schedules and school start times should be reexamined.

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