AHS or The Walking Dead? Students struggle to stay awake

Many students wake up with barely enough time to make their beds

Audrey Wang

Many students wake up with barely enough time to make their beds

Audrey Wang, Staff Writer

Many students, and some teachers, would agree that school starts at an ungodly hour, but what isn’t commonly known is that research suggests that the early start times of school are actually very harmful to students.

Although it seems that there are many factors that go into losing sleep, such as sports, homework, and social life, the most important one that people often forget is the body’s hormones, its circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is a physical, mental, and behavioral change that follows a roughly twenty-four hour cycle. The circadian rhythm inside everyone is self-sustained in the body by hormones and responds to light and darkness. This is what controls a sleep cycle and the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps with falling asleep.         

“Biological shifts in the teenage years drive the need for longer sleep durations and later wake times,” said Evie Blad, a writer for Education Week.(Sept. 22, 2015, sleep) Teenage have different biological changes in their body as they are growing, and it is often harder for them to go to sleep earlier at night, because their bodies do not allow it. To show the difference between teenagers and adults,  he even goes so far to equate a teen waking up at 7 a.m. to a teacher waking up at 4:30 a.m.

Not only does Blad write that teenagers and adults have different cycles, Dr. Denise Pope, in an article by Tim Walker, a writer for NeaToday. (Sept. 20, 2015, sleep) also says“teenagers are nocturnal,” and “Their [teenagers’] circadian rhythms are different from adults.”

With start times at 7:30 a.m. at Adams, many students wake up at 6 a.m. or even earlier. The changing circadian rhythms in teenagers make it impossible for some students to sleep as early as they would like.  Many do not even fall asleep until 11 p.m. or even 1 a.m. Unable to fall asleep until a later time, teens then have to struggle to get up early for class at 7:30 a.m, thus lacking enough sleep and energy to pay attention in class.

Some student athletes have morning practice and have to be at school at 5:45 am. “It’s hard for me to keep my eyes open in class even though I try really hard to stay awake,” said juinor Adrienne Goins.

“I usually try to go to sleep early, but it is hard for me,” said sophomore Erin Santella. This may be because  her melatonin cycles are not kicking in until much later at night, further preventing her from sleeping early even if she tried.

Students usually tend to get enough sleep over the weekend, but as the week comes to a close on Fridays, that is “when the late passes are the most common,” said attendance secretary Faye Senft. Students are presumably sleep-deprived after a long week, and just do not have the energy to get up with the same amount of zest they had on Monday to get to school on time.

Not only does this affect their energy in school, there are other risks to sleep deprivation. “ Adolescents who don’t get enough sleep have an increased risk of being overweight, suffering depression, and struggling academically,” said Walker.

Some schools are noticing this problem and actively trying to change it. At Edina High School in Minneapolis, Blad reports that they are “the first school in the country to shift to a later start, from 7:20 to 8:30 a.m.” The counselors and nurses there have said that there are fewer students reporting emotional problems and physical complaints. Not only were there fewer problems at school with counselors and nurses, but Blad also reports that the parents said teens were easier to live with when the extra hour of sleep was added.

Although this one extra hour seems like a simple solution, there are many other factors that make starting later easier said than done. Changing the times affects everyone involved with schools, not just the students. It affects teachers, bus drivers, counselors, nurses, cafeteria workers, and more. They are people, with their own lives and own kids, and possibly other jobs all packed in a tight schedule. Many districts also struggle with the financial cost of changing the start times, with the “lack of resources, will and capacity.” (Blad)

However, the physical and mental health of the students should not be sacrificed for financial costs and some schedule mishaps. The mental and physical health of students should not be discarded because there are not enough supporters who understand that the teens are not just being lazy and there is an actual health hazard. School should be a learning environment, where students should be fully capable of doing the best they can and living up to their greatest potential, not a place to stumble mindlessly throughout the day, sleep deprived.