If you’re having trouble staying awake in your 8 AM you are not alone. Students across the country in all levels of school are reporting to class as early as 8:30 AM and it is having a negative affect on their health. Your sleep schedule isn’t the only thing affected by this, more and more studies being done are finding evidence linking a lack of sleep caused by early school start times to other serious health issues ranging from depression to obesity.
It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that students get anywhere from 8 and 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However any busy student will know that this is next to impossible. We go from classes to sports to clubs to jobs and then come home to do hours of homework and studying. Yet we are somehow still expected to make it to bed at a reasonable hour to get up the next day to do it all over again.
While 8:30 AM may sound like a reasonable time to start class it fails to factor in the time students need to get up in the morning, eat a sustainable breakfast and get to school on time. Once this is all accounted for, it leaves students getting up for school as early as 6 AM. The average 18-19 year old goes to bed anywhere from 12 to 1 AM, meaning that on average they receive only 5-6 hours of sleep per night. This is where the health affects begin to develop.
According to a recent study done by the CDC, children and teens who do not get enough sleep (the recommended 8-9 hours) are more likely to show signs of depression, give in to dangerous behavior like drinking and drug use and perform poorer in school. A lack of sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, falling asleep in class and a lack of motivation. Of the 39,700 public schools tested, only 17.7% reported having schools that start at 8:30 AM or later. Meaning that hundreds of thousands of kids across the country are at risk for these problems.
Another study showed that the affects of inadequate sleep are similar to the affects of being slightly intoxicated. This brought up a good point that the teens who are driving themselves to school exhausted in the morning are getting behind the wheel as if they had been drinking right before. This alone puts everyone in danger.
When puberty hits, the “biological clock” in our bodies begins to change. With this change, we are able to stay up later and often find our bodies pushing us to do so. Research shows, that we are extremely sensitive to the blue light that our computers and TVs emit; as a result, being exposed to it at night (like when we are up until all hours doing our homework) actually hurts us by confusing our “biological clock” and pushing us to stay up later.
So, the next time you think about scheduling an 8 AM every day or stay up until 2 watching Netflix, I urge you to ask yourself “Is it worth the health affects?”