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How do you feel about your school promoting students to be extremely fatigued all day? This is the case in many schools as high school authorities are simply ignoring one of the most important priorities that children need – sleep. Teenagers need nine hours of sleep at night, which is an hour more than they needed the age of ten (“Healthy Sleep.”). During adolescence, teenagers experience a change in their circadian rhythms, where they shift to a later sleep-wake cycle. Because of a later melatonin release, the average teenager’s bedtime drops two hours to 11pm and a later wake time (Breus). And yet, incredibly early school times are working against the biological needs of teenagers. With average school days starting at 6:30 AM, students are simply not able to get the nine hours of sleep recommended by doctors (‘Later School’). School should start later in the morning because it increases academic performance of students, results in health benefits, and gives students a chance to eat a healthy breakfast.
A later start to school in the morning can increase academic performance of students. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a lack of sleep impacts performance as it reduces concentration, creates attention deficits, slows reaction times, impairs decision making skills, and even causes forgetfulness (Morgan). With a reasonable amount of sleep however, teenagers are more alert and focused. A sensible amount of sleep allows the brain to run through the ‘slow wave sleep’ cycle, where the brain replays information that was learnt while awake. This leads to memory consolidation, in which information is stored in the memory for a long-term (‘How Sleep’). Evidence proves that these effects actually have a serious impact on the test scores and grades of teenagers. Amy Wolfson, Professor of Psychology, surveyed more than 3000 high school students. Her results displayed that those who achieved poor grades (C, D, or F), reported getting 25 fewer minutes of sleep than the students who had achieved A’s and B’s (Morgan). Because sleep helps the brain concentrate, stay alert, and conserve energy, it is clear that a later start to school in the morning can significantly increase academic performance of teenagers.
A later begin to class can result in better health benefits and forestall physical health issues. Lack of sleep doesn’t result in just tiredness and feelings of fatigue in students, but prolonged sleep deprivation can actually influence overall health and make teenagers prone to serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even diabetes. However, later school times result in more sleep and make teenagers less vulnerable to such conditions. How? Firstly, sleep boosts immunity. During sleep, the immune system releases certain proteins called cytokines, which act as chemical messengers in the immune system and help support it. Sleep can also help teenagers maintain a healthy weight, as it helps conserve levels of leptin (the compound that makes you feel full), and decreased levels of ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates hunger). Sleep also averts heart disease as it helps prevent an increased heart rate and blood pressure. It also keeps levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation, that may put an extra strain on the heart, at a reasonable rate (‘Why lack’). Thus, later school times make teenagers less likely to obtain such serious medical conditions.
A delayed start to school gives students a chance to eat a reasonable breakfast in the morning before class. One of the primary things that goes away when teenagers are in a hurry to go to school in the morning is a wholesome breakfast. With later school times however, more time is available for teenagers to choose something healthier than prepackaged breakfast foods. Picking breakfast foods that are wealthy in fiber, grains, protein, and low in added sugar may support teenagers’ capacity to focus, concentrate, and memorize – which they need to learn at school successfully. This is because good concentration depends on keeping messages flowing freely between brain cells. Oxygen, which is received from the blood sugar, is needed in the cells to send these messages. According to the American Dietetic Association, a healthy breakfast containing lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables will provide teenagers with enough food that affects your blood sugar to produce oxygen (‘Breakfast Basics’). Therefore, more available time before school gives students a chance to consume a healthy breakfast and stay concentrated.
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