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Let Teenagers Sleep In

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Let Teenagers Sleep In

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Starting schools before 8:30 a.m. shows a tragic disregard for both the mental health of children and for science.

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Mr. Nicholls is a journalist and a high school science teacher.

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Credit...Leo Espinosa
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This article has been updated to reflect news developments.

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A fresh-faced batch of teenagers just began a new school year, but will they get the most out of it? In the mornings, many are forced to get to school much too early. And at night, ubiquitous screens are a lure that’s hard to resist. This double whammy is a perfect lesson in sleep deprivation.

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Mar 19
2021 Nicolette Miller (Mar 19 2021 10:16AM) : Problems:early start time, digital distractions
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Sep 3
Janissa Baca (Sep 03 2021 5:11PM) : schools should start later more

most kids like staying up late or can’t fall asleep early because they got used to their sleeping schedules. I’m the same way. I usually go to sleep at 11:30-12. In my opinion schools start way too early. Especially high schools. Most start around 7:30 ish. Kids don’t get enough sleep some days and it causes them to not stay focused in class.

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Sep 10
Saida Tasir (Sep 10 2021 12:00PM) : Waking up in the mrning is really hard fr children that are staying up late. It mess with our heads and make us not want t learn in class. School start way to ealry in my opinin.
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Sep 13
Destiny Wills (Sep 13 2021 4:57PM) : School should start later. more

Most kids get ues to there sleep schedule falling asleep 12:00-4:00 because i am the same way personaly I think that school should start later to help kids get more sleep and help them get ready getting up for school at 5-6 in the morning is really stressful and a hassel

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Sep 15
Karla Hernandez (Sep 15 2021 1:44PM) : school should start later than usual more

I feel if kids get more sleep the more energy they get to come to school with energy.

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Sep 24
Carina Grajeda (Sep 24 2021 2:27PM) : Teenager Sleep more

School starts pretty early so i think they should change it to like 9:30 and then leave school at 4 or 3:45 because we also have school for almost all day. I think when kids go to sleep late, its hard for them to get up and pay attention in class early in the morning. Sometimes i cant go to sleep at night, and then i don’t want to get up in the morning but i have to, to do school but its hard to pay attention when my eyes hurt and when i’m super tired.

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Sep 24
Miley Warne (Sep 24 2021 2:31PM) : There are a lot of teenagers that are losing sleep and then they fall asleep when they are in school or in class.
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Mar 19
2021 Nicolette Miller (Mar 19 2021 10:15AM) : Problem: sleep deprivation could be a reason forkids not getting the most out of school
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Sep 10
alessandra miranda (Sep 10 2021 12:06PM) : when teenagers don't sleep they cant pay attention and that causes bad grades. more

when you are tired all you think about is going to sleep and you don’t pay attention in class and that causes bad grades and sometimes you miss important things and might have a test and not remember because you are tired from not sleeping.

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Three out of every four students in grades 9 to 12 fail to sleep the minimum of eight hours that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends for their age group. And sleep deprivation is unremittingly bad news. Anyone who talks about sleep as if it’s some kind of inconvenience and getting less of it is a virtue should be challenged. These people are dangerous.

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At its most basic, insufficient sleep results in reduced attention and impaired memory, hindering student progress and lowering grades. More alarmingly, sleep deprivation is likely to lead to mood and emotional problems, increasing the risk of mental illness. Chronic sleep deprivation is also a major risk factor for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer. As if this weren’t enough, it also makes falling asleep at the wheel much more likely.

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Sep 24
Mayrim Juarez Navarro (Sep 24 2021 1:11PM) : Schools preaching about safety of their students. more

Schools usually talk about how much they want their students to be healthy and safe. Even though, there are many studies prove that the amount of stress school has on students is dangerous. Then they don’t do anything to change it or to help.

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It is important to understand why teenagers have a particularly hard time getting enough sleep, and what adults need to do to help.

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First, a reminder of the basic biology: After puberty, adolescents are no longer the morning larks of their younger years. They become rewired as night owls, staying awake later and then sleeping in. This is not part of a feckless project to frustrate parents, but is driven by changes in the way the brain responds to light.

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New technology habits aren’t helping. More teenagers now turn to activities involving screens at night. According to a report this year from the Pew Research Center, some 95 percent of children aged 13 to 17 now have access to a smartphone, up from 37 percent in 2012 and 73 percent in 2015. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey from 2017 reveals that 43 percent of high-school students are playing computer or video games for more than three hours on an average school night. Given the binge viewing encouraged by the likes of Netflix and YouTube and the pressure to nurture social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, the total screen time for youngsters is probably well in excess of six hours a day, on average.

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The growth in screen time is particularly problematic for sleep. Not only does it eat into the time available for rest, but the blue light emitted by LEDs, TVs, tablets and smartphones suppresses the body’s secretion of melatonin, the hormone that signals it’s time to sleep. Overdosing on screens at night effectively tells the brain it’s still daytime, delaying the body’s cues to sleep even further.

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Parents should set real limits on screen time, model responsible use of devices and praise children who show signs of regulating their own media consumption. In the hour before bedtime, there should be a moratorium on bright lights in the home, avoiding devices and harsh LED bulbs often found in kitchens and bathrooms.

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Excessive screen use is compounded by a dangerous tradition: starting high school abnormally early. Based on data available from 2015, 86 percent of high schools started before 8:30 a.m., and one in 10 high schools had a start time before 7:30 a.m. Prying a teenager out of bed at 6 a.m. to get to school is the equivalent of waking an adult at 4 a.m. The brain will be at its least active in the 24-hour cycle, which explains the monosyllabic grunts of teenagers as they lumber to the school bus.

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In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., a policy now backed by the American Medical Association, the C.D.C. and many other health organizations.

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Whenever schools have managed the transition to a later start time, students get more sleep, attendance goes up, grades improve and there is a significant reduction in car accidents. The RAND Corporation estimated that opening school doors after 8:30 a.m. would contribute at least $83 billion to the national economy within a decade through improved educational outcomes and reduced car crash rates. The Brookings Institution calculates that later school start times would lead to an average increase in lifetime earningsof $17,500.

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Since 2014, several states have passed legislation related to school start times. In August, California lawmakers passed a bill that would have gone further. By 2021, most middle and high schools across the state would have had to start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

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It was landmark legislation, according to Terra Ziporyn Snider of the grass-roots organization Start School Later, which has been campaigning for change since 2011. “It is becoming less acceptable to run schools at unhealthy hours, and this bill reflects that sentiment,” she said. But California’s governor, Jerry Brown, vetoed the bill on Thursday amid opposition from local officials, a deeply regrettable decision. It shows a tragic disregard for both the mental health of children and for science.

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But Ms. Ziporyn Snider remains upbeat: “Eventually a bill like this, created in the best interests of children, will pass. It’s only a matter of time.”

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Parents need to be vocal about the reasons change is so important, joining forces with community leaders, sleep scientists, health professionals and educators to put school start times on the local, then state agendas.

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Changing the operating hours of an institution so central to the community is far from easy. It requires strong leadership and adjustments by school bus companies and businesses offering services like child care and extracurricular clubs. But despite the upheaval involved, making such a shift would pay off in the long run. It is unthinkable that a school should operate with asbestos in the ceilings, with no central heating in winter or with rats in the kitchen. Starting school before 8:30 a.m. should be equally unacceptable.

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Henry Nicholls (@WayOfThePanda) is a journalist, science teacher, trustee of Narcolepsy U.K. and the author of “Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of a Good Night’s Rest.”

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DMU Timestamp: February 27, 2021 01:26

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