A healthier, more rounded, better performing students in the

A student slouched over their desk, head hanging low, eyes but the slightest opened is often called lazy and careless. But in reality, the night before consisted of going straight to soccer practice after the three o’clock school bell, coming home, showering, eating, spending the very least, an hour at best, of family time, and then working through the loads of homework waiting for them. Sure this may seem like the basic life of a student, but something so ordinary in the U.S education system can be so destructive. Because while that student is stuck working on a project for chemistry, the clock kept ticking and before they knew it, it was already 2 o’clock in the morning with only 4 mere hours of sleep before that piercing 6 am alarm clock started this cycle all over again. For students lack of sleep is not something that is uncommon. In fact,being once a highschool student, myself, the environment that I was around and included in was tired teenagers. The majority of U.S public high schools begin class before 8 am (Wahlstrom 4), leading teens to have to start their day as early as five thirty in the morning after a long sleepless night. This type of behavior is very unhealthy for this age group. Lack of sleep can lead to multiple problems mentally, physically, socially and academically. A way to save students from these problems is to start the school day later. Some might argue, like parents and some educational leaders, that the education system is fine the way it is right now, and that it might only complicate the situation. The reality is that students are suffering and changes like transportation and the school schedule can be overcome with other options, such as, rearranging the bus routes and cutting time out from different periods. A later high school start can positively affect teenagers who suffer from the consequences of sleep deprivation. If schools in the U.S were to change their start time to no earlier than 9 am, teens would be able to get closer to the target hours of sleep per night. This change can increase the number of healthier, more rounded, better performing students in the U.S. Teenagers are constantly overwhelmed with homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities on top of family time and maintaining a social life; with this amount of activities, that are vital to being successful later in college and with getting a job, leads students to go to bed unreasonably late. Students in the U.S are lacking so much sleep that ” Only about 20 % of American teens sleep the recommended amount of 9 h, 15 min a night (National Sleep Foundation NSF 2006)” (Winsler 1), as said by Dr. Adam Winsler of Child Development in his article “The Difference One More Hour of Sleep Can Make for Teen Hopelessness, Suicidal Ideation, and Substance Use”. This target amount of hours is not nearly as much sleep as the majority of students get. There are many instances where teens get half the recommended amount. Not only do students have to be awake at such an early hour, but they also have to be working and thinking. Having to write and take tests with these facts makes it extremely difficult to pay attention and in return causes students to perform poorly and receive bad grades (Clinkinbeard 1). This then leads to even more problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression. A poll taken by the National Sleep Foundation showed “that 60% of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day, according to their parents, and 15% said they fell asleep at school during the year” (National Sleep Foundation 1). These statistics from the National Sleep Foundation and Dr. Adam Winsler portray the serious problem with adolescents sleeping habits, and a cause for this is the early high school start enforced in the U.S. A human body will begin to shut down with sleep deprivation. Sleep is as important as the food we eat and the air we breathe, and just like food our body becomes starved and slowly powers down without sleep.Sleep deprivation comes with serious effects, especially mental, and bringing awareness to this will stress the need for a later start. Mental side effects are common because “Sleep deprivation is known to impair prefrontal cortical functioning, a brain region critical for executive functioning and inhibitory control” (Winsler 1). Of course, these brain functions are crucial for working in school but also outside of school. The brain can become so impaired that even controlling a motor vehicle can be a dangerous challenge which unfortunately has, and is, causing deaths in teens (Carskadon 2), Mary A. Carskadon, who received a Ph.D. in Neuro- and Biobehavioral Sciences and specializes in sleep research at Stanford University, informs her readers. When a teen is running on a low amount of sleep, falling asleep at the wheel is very possible and likely. In fact,  a recent study found that “The people who slept the least were 21 percent more likely to have been involved in a crash than those who got more sleep” (Fox 1) explained Maggie Fox, Senior Writer for NBC News. This high percentage is great danger for teenagers, especially those that drive to school in the morning. Although a specific number cannot be reached on the amount of accidents and deaths caused by drowsiness and driving within teens, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states “Teen drivers are among the most at risk when it comes to drowsy driving, … and school start times represent important factors impacting teen health and safety” (NHTSA 12). Because of these early school morning adolescent drivers are only put at more risk. This in not the only toll sleep deprivation takes on the mental part of adolescents, though. Mental illness like depressions is often seen in teenagers that do not get enough sleep. Depression in teens is vastly growing and a tremendous problem in the United States. It is defined with the constant feeling of sadness, the feeling of no purpose and tiredness, which in extreme cases leads to suicidal thoughts and actions (Winsler 2). Since depression can also cause the need for more sleep than the recommended amount, it becomes even harder for students when they get less than the target amount of sleep. In total about “5% of adolescents meet the clinical criteria for depression and …  approximately 89% of clinically depressed adolescents suffer some form of sleep disturbance” (Clinkinbeard 1). These scholars, like Winsler, Clinkinbeard and Carskadon, focus on the fact that sleep deprivation can be dangerous to a teenagers brain which points to the crucial need for a later start. Without adding more sleep to high school students’ nights, there will be no end in sight to depression and suicides caused by lack of sleep.Physical Side effects are also prevalent in the subject of sleep deprivation and its disruption in the school system. Some common effects are obesity, which can then lead to even greater health risks, and then delinquency and substance abuse which can run its course on the social and academic side of a high school students life. Obesity is found to be a reoccurring problem in adolescents who lack sleep. A study investigated by Elizabeth Culnan of the Department of Psychology at Drexel University in her article “Insufficient Sleep and Weight Status in High School Students: Should We Be Focusing on the Extremes?”, suggests that students who reported “short sleep duration had higher odds of being in the obese category (AOR = 1.47; 95% CI = 1.20–1.80), compared to students who reported receiving the usual amount of sleep or a longer amount of sleep” (Culnan 106-107). Obesity is a fast rising disease in the U.S, where currently about 18% of the young adult population is obese, mainly because of a lack of physical activity and a bad diet (Culnan 101), which can come from sitting at a desk and studying for hours through the night with a stomach that needs to be filled while awake. The number of obese adolescents is bound to rise with less and less sleep. Obesity will only cause teenagers to go through even more obstacles like diabetes and heart disease, which can be chronic and stick with them throughout their entire life (Culnan 101). All of these negative effects show what many students in America have to face because of sleep deprivation, and the only way to decrease this number is to take action.There is also the problem of delinquency and substance abuse which can run its course on the social and academic side of a high school students life. A recent study showed by  “Even mild sleep deprivation has immediate effects on cognitive functioning, which may increase an adolescent’s risk of involvement in delinquent behavior” (Clinkinbeard 1) says Samantha Clinkinbeard, Professor from the School of Criminology in the University of Nevada. This kind of behavior is dangerous to both the teenager and surrounding people. A teenager that gets involved with criminal behavior can find themselves jeopardizing their school career and future because the amount of sleep they had. Going along with the possibility of jeopardizing a student’s future, substance abuse is linked with sleep loss (Winsler 2), so much so that “sleep problems are linked with earlier onset and increased use of alcohol, alcohol-related problems, and other unhealthy substances including tobacco, marijuana, and illicit/prescription drugs (Kenney et al. 2013; Wong et al. 2004)” (Winsler 3). Substance abuse in itself is dangerous, but especially at such a young age, because it puts teenagers in danger of even greater health risks like lung cancer. Studying and staying in school is hard enough when the body and brain and tired, but add substance abuse to impair a student on top of that and there is almost no hope for improvement in a teenager’s school life. But on the bright side, findings show “substance use are sizably reduced with one more hour of weeknight sleep” (Winsler 15). Culnan, Clinkinbeard, and Winsler were able to bring forth the major complications (obesity, delinquency and substance abuse) that sleep deprivation causes on the physical, social, and academic part of an adolescents life. All of these statistics, support the fact that sleep deprivation can ruin a students school life and more sleep needs to be implemented in their lives, like through a later school start. Thus, adding just an extra hour of sleep can solve destructive problems in teenagers’ lives.  From my own personal experience in high school, which was just last year, I still get flashbacks to those long sleepless nights. Competitions were constantly held between peers on who was able to get the most amount of sleep because of the overload of tasks that had to be completed the night before. This goes to show that students get so little sleep that the ones that were able to get even close to the target hours are seen as a rare gems. These competitions usually included me too, since I was a part of activities like volunteering, piano practice, clubs at school, working, and about a 4 hour average for homework time. Sleep was often not my friend. Every morning I would have to battle with myself to get the strength to wake up, because on a good night I would get five to six hours of sleep. This led to many absences from school, especially skipping first period, which many of my peers had to do as well, because there was such a lack of sleep that our brains would not be able to function and stay awake. These absences from school caused some of my grades to lower and took even more sleepless nights to raise them towards the end of the school year. An extra hour of of sleep would have helped my school, and thus schools all around the country, to stray away from absences and most importantly the poor consequences of sleep deprivation. There needs to be a major change throughout the country in starting the school day later. There have been multiple successful studies done with changing start times. Most public schools in the U.S start before 8 am. After some research done by the Center of Disease Control, “42 states reported that 75-100 percent of the public schools in their respective states started before 8:30 AM, the average start time was 8:03 AM.” (CDC 1). One study done and then evaluated by Kyla Wahlstrom, a research associate for the Department of Educational Policy and Administration and College of Education and Human Development, of high schools in Minneapolis, where a later start time was enforced and students were able to get about an extra hour of sleep each night (Wahlstrom 12). The school found an increase in attendance and enrollment rates, increased daytime alertness, and decreased student-reported depression. (Wahlstrom). According to this study there were more benefits, like “students in Minneapolis high schools get 5 more hours of sleep per week than do their peers in schools that start earlier in the day.” (Wahlstrom 18), than disadvantages to starting the day later. This includes that “increased sleep..continued to be true 4 years into the change. This is contrary to the fears and expectations that a later start would result in students staying awake an hour later on school nights” (Wahlstrom 18). Taking all of these finding, made by Kyla Wahlstrom, from various high schools, a conclusion can be made that overall many advantageous changes occurred within this district. The schools in Minnesota were one of the first schools to try the later start about six years ago. Why stop there? There are thousands of other schools in the country that can apply this new rule and get advantageous outcomes. With more awareness and education about this topic a movement can be made to create change, of shifting that start time, in the United States school system.There are a few aspects that would need to be altered in order to be able to enforce a later high school start time. One of these aspects is transportation, where in the study done in Minneapolis, this concern was brought up (Wahlstrom 19). Many students get to and from school by using the School Bus system. Some worry that with school starting an hour later public schools bus schedule would become disordered, but there are some solutions to this. One solution is that just a shift in the pick up time in some school districts would be sufficient enough. Those that can not go through that simple switch because of the alignment of Elementary and Middle School pick up times could switch to public transportation, since “In many cases, the public bus routes are similar to yellow bus routes, and can be used by students” (National Sleep Foundation 1), carpool, or drive themselves, if they are old enough. The Minneapolis high schools, where “The same buses and routes were used; the only changes made were the times the buses used the routes.” did not find any problems like many other districts in the U.S. would. Another obstacle that might be brought to attention is the shortening of education time. Many parents fear, like stated in Nancy Shute article “Many Parents Aren’t Sold On Later School Start Times For Teens.”, that “they thought the later start would not allow enough time for afterschool activities” (Shute 1). I, on the other hand, am proposing a situation where the school day starts later but still ends at the same time. This way students get more sleep and still are able to complete their after school tasks. Starting the school day later and ending at the same time would mean that the school day overall gets shorter. This can be compromised by shortening some time from various periods like, study hall, lunch, gym, and passing periods. Traditional block scheduling can also be considered, like many successful high schools do today, to cut out most of the passing periods. Even just taking 5 minutes out of each class in an 8 period day would already home out to 40 minutes that are sometimes wasted by chatting and overall fooling around instead of learning. This can quickly add up, since after all, the shift would be an hour not half the school day, so a few cutdowns on these classes and periods would add up to create the late start. Finally, the question of the actual effectiveness of adding one hour of sleep could be brought up and the answer to this is simple: very effective. As said by Adam Winsler, a Psychology B.A holder from University of New Mexico and Child Development Ph.D. from Stanford University with many books written about these very topics (College of Humanities and Social Sciences), “it appears that one does not have to make a huge leap from obtaining, say, 6 h to getting nine hours of sleep as a teen in order to see the positive health benefits of increased sleep” (Winsler 15). After doing a study on teenagers and the effects of sleep deprivation Winsler found that many positive outcomes occurred even with one more hour of sleep, also the “start time is a stronger predictor of adolescent sleep quantity, than bedtimes, bedtime routines, and time spent doing homework (Knutson and Lauderdale 2009)” (Winsler 3). This leads to changing the start time to be the best choice in improving students’ school life, and then ideally after-school life too. All these complications can easily be resolved especially when looking at the outcome on the United States youth. A later high school start can positively affect teenagers who suffer from the consequences of sleep deprivation. If schools in the U.S were to change their start time to no earlier than 9 am teens would be able to get closer to the target hours of sleep per night. Sleep deprivation can be seen as toxic to students’ health, future, and life overall. As seen on the two sides, the negative effects on the mental side, like depression, suicide, and cognitive impairment, to the physical side, like obesity and the Social/academic side with substance abuse, and delinquency. Taking into account the study done by Minneapolis high schools and how the school thrived should only push more high schools in America to look at this example and follow. Adding in my own personal experience, as a witness and victim of sleep deprivation, I could see the destruction it creates. Although the size of this problem is already big, it is time to take matters into our hands and save students across the country by giving them what they have been asking for, what their bodies need, and what their brains hunger for: sleep.