By Matt Swanson
It’s time for change! High school students’ biological clocks are changing during puberty, and studies show that these changes render teenage sleep patterns different from that of children or adults. The biological clock, otherwise known as the circadian rhythm, is the internal body clock that regulates biological processes in a 24-hour cycle. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, during puberty teenagers need on average about 8½ to more than 9 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, on very rare occasion is that attainable for BHS students, or any high school students in general, because of chronic sleep restriction. One may ask, why don’t high school students just go to bed earlier? Well, quite frankly because we can’t. High school students can’t go to bed earlier because we are biologically told to fall asleep and wake up later during puberty. Studies show that this change in sleep patterns seems to be due to the fact that the hormone melatonin is produced later at night for teens than it is for kids and adults. Melatonin can make it harder for teens to fall asleep early and also wake up early. Going to bed earlier is clearly not effective. Point blank, bird is no longer the word; the word is now, sleep!
Messing with circadian rhythms by decreasing the necessary amount of sleep that teenagers need with our early school start time carries many negative implications. For one, The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration estimates that more than 100,000 accidents, 40,000 injuries, and 1,500 people are killed in the U.S. every year in crashes caused by drivers who are simply tired. Dr. Robert Vorona, the associate professor of internal medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA said that insufficient sleep “may lead to problematic consequences including mood disorders, academic difficulties and behavioral issues.” Reduced sleep is also linked to increasing the risk of metabolic and nutritional deficits, including obesity. Reduced sleep also gives teenagers more time to get into trouble after school. Reduced sleep also is shown in studies to increase teen depression. Reduced sleep also negatively impairs the grades of students in their first two class periods. Reduced sleep is also shown to negatively affect the attendance and tardiness of students. Lastly, but definitely not least importantly, reduced sleep is also shown in studies to increase the drop-out rates of students.
The only way to help aid my fellow BHS students and I, who are fighting in a biological struggle against lack of sleep, is by simply giving us more time in the morning for sleep. We need to extend the start of school by two hours in order to start seeing dramatic positive impacts on students. Sure, this means we are going to have to also extend the time in which school ends. Sure, this means that it is going to have an impact on sports. Sure, this means that it is going to have an impact on after-school jobs. However, shouldn’t this be not too much of a problem because aren’t we supposed to live by what we preach? My fellow students and I have grown up hearing the sermon from all of our superiors that our studies should fall first in our lives, only preceded by our families. Helping aid BHS students by simply extending our school start time is honestly as easy as counting the ABC’s.
Just picture Burlington High School with a later start time. No more would you see students walking around like zombies for their first two periods of the day, still wiping sleep from their eyes. Imagine for a moment how beneficial being wide awake could be to a student’s class participation, GPA, standardized test scores, or just plain life in general.
It’s time for change! Clearly, our early school start time is only impairing the capability and mentality of all of BHS’s students. Help fight back against circadian rhythms and CHANGE THE HOURS!