As Ben Franklin once said 'early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.'
Unfortunately, this old adage is not applicable to teenagers today. Across the nation, high schools have realized that students aren't getting enough sleep. This is not a problem that should be taken lightly. Schools are pushing for later start times because they know that as students go through adolescence, their sleep cycles shift. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this shift starts at around 12 years of age.
Adolescent melatonin production (the chemical which causes drowsiness) doesn't begin in the evening until around 11 p.m. and doesn't stop until around 7 a.m. So, as expressed in the New York Times editorial, 'Are You Up Yet,' 'trying to wake up a teenager before 7 o'clock is like trying to awaken an adult before 4 a.m.' When schools start at 7:35 a.m, students are waking up well before the production of melatonin has stopped. Students then sit in classrooms still mentally asleep, not able to fully participate or comprehend classroom material. Some say that a later start time will create problems in families of students. If anything, keeping early start times causes sleep deprivation, and more stress and hostility in the homes of exhausted high school students.
Some think that more studies and research need to be done to prove the benefits of starting schools later. What they don't realize, is that the proof is staring them in the face. A Minnesota school district pushed its start times from 7:15 to 8:40, and when studying the school district, Dr. Wahlstrom from the University of Minnesota found that attendance and enrollment rates improved, students had increased daytime alertness and student-reported depression decreased after the change was made.
Mary Carskadon, PhD , who is an expert on teens and sleep, cites that when teens get enough sleep they have better grades, reduced absences from school, less likelihood for tardiness and experiencing depression, and a reduced risk of car crashes, metabolic deficits, nutritional deficits and obesity.
Sill, there is concern that later starts leave less time for extracurricular activities. Schools that have already made the switch to a later start time, such as the West Linn-Wilsonville school district, realized this problem, and simply shifted practice times. It is not the job of schools to work around extracurricular and athletic programs. It is the job of schools to educate students to the best of their abilities, and for that, students need an adequate amount of sleep.
Liz Glusman is a resident of Lake Oswego.