For many students across the nation, weekday mornings are often filled with a longing for just a few more minutes in bed and a dread for the day’s activities. We often chalk this up to just another part of teenage angst, but it may be caused by a growing epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation in teenagers. Sleep deprivation is common across many nations, but it is especially acute among people between the ages of 13-18 years old. However, the causes of this go deeper than many people think.
Firstly, numerous studies have shown that teenagers experience a two hour shift in their natural sleep cycle (known as the circadian rhythm) from sleepiness occurring at about 8-9PM before puberty and 10-11PM after. Following this shift is extremely crucial to prevent insomnia, but for many students, heavy school workloads prevent them from going to sleep when they need to.
Secondly, phones, computers, and other electronics keep many teenagers up at night. However, it is a common misconception that this is solely because the devices are hard to put down or make teens ‘excited’; rather, the light given off by electronics has been shown to keep people awake. Most screens emit a blue light that prevents our brain from understanding when we should sleep, making us feel tired much later than intended.
This problem is just as concerning at Corvallis High School as it is across the nation. Two-thirds of students interviewed here at CHS felt that they do not get enough sleep at night. It is common to see our peers mill around mindlessly in the morning, dark circles prominent under their eyes. We are no strangers to exhaustion, and unless we do something, it will forever stay that way.
What can we do to counter this concerning problem? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that schools start at a minimum of 8:30 AM, but five out of six schools do not meet this. Unfortunately, CHS falls under that category as well. However, some school districts around the country have begun to experiment with different start times to give students more sleep. One of these is the local Lake Oswego District, pushing their start times by almost an hour. By doing so, they are better accounting for the shift in sleep patterns mentioned before, allowing for students to get the sleep that they need.
This solution is just one of many proposed to fix the issue, and it most likely will not solve the problem by itself. However, it is definitely a step in the right direction. By experimenting with different ideas, we will slowly work our way towards diminishing sleep deprivation until the phrase ‘just five more minutes’ is all but gone.