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Education

Opinion: Schools should prioritize the sleep of their students

As high schoolers, we are asked to perform well academically while maintaining adequate physical and mental health. What if I were to tell you that schools are hindering our ability to achieve these goals? 
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/kavingulati/" target="_self">Kavin Gulati</a>

Kavin Gulati

July 13, 2022
Experts make it clear that high school poses a threat to sleeping schedules.

“I think high school is the real danger spot in terms of sleep deprivation,” said William Dement, the founder of the Sleep Research Center at Stanford, “What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could perform.”

This statement is backed up with data. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, “among high school students, 72% reported insufficient sleep, with about 20% reporting sleeping fewer than 6 hours a night.” 

One might ask, why is sleep hindering students from achieving academic success and adequate physical and mental health? According to the CDC, there are legit health concerns that come from not sleeping enough, including increased likeliness to be overweight, “not engage in daily physical activity, suffer from symptoms of depression, engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco and using illicit drugs, and perform poorly in school.” 

Now, how does school relate to the lack of sleep for teens? In a survey conducted on a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities, Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, found that students in these schools average about 3.1 hours of homework each night.

In addition, Pope and her colleagues cited “prior research indicating that homework benefits plateau at about two hours per night.” The extra homework may not seem like much, but many students in the study “said their homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems.”

In order to combat significant sleep deprivation among high school students, schools need to make changes. Sleep researchers worldwide recommend that high schools start at 8:30 am or later. According to the Sleep Foundation, “around the beginning of puberty, most adolescents experience later sleep onset and wake times,” which is why starting school later is beneficial.

Additionally, schools need to reduce homework hours into the optimal two hours so students can keep up with their busy schedules while getting enough sleep. Ultimately, schools need to make adjustments to fulfill their goal of developing the best students possible. 

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