Teen sleep deprivation proves damaging to high school students
December 11, 2012
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If you go to Wayland High School, you’ve inevitably found yourself working through unthinkable morning hours, wondering whether to push on with your assignment or give in to the biological necessity of sleep.
Teen sleep deprivation is a growing problem, affecting physical health, mental stability and learning. We’ve known this for years, yet schools across the country continue to ignore this issue, in part because of their strict testing standards and beliefs that students are to blame for overloaded schedules.
And while part of the blame certainly does lie with students, there are clear steps that teachers and administrators can and should take to reduce stress, encourage sleep and ultimately improve the learning process.
Step one is to start the school day later. In 2004, a task force comprised of faculty, parents and students unanimously recommended a delay of at least 45 minutes in a report to the superintendent at the time, Dr. Gary Burton.
But the idea has yet to be implemented, despite consistent research showing that teens are hardwired to a later sleep schedule and could take advantage of a shifted day. The loudest objections are over logistics, something that shouldn’t even begin to compare with the benefits of a well-rested school.
Step two is a public awareness campaign, which the 2004 report also recommended, and luckily, students are capable of taking into their own hands. Do some Internet searches; read up on WSPN’s articles here, here and here; start prioritizing your tasks and taking taking advantage of frees. Simply understanding the importance of sleep helps teens make more informed decisions and helps community members allocate resources where necessary.
The third and final step is to “flip” our classrooms so that the kind of learning we can more passively sit through and absorb —namely lectures and slideshows — happens at home, through online video and other applications, while additional analysis and practice problems take place in class. The immediate sleep benefit is that teachers know exactly how much time they’re assigning, and students can more easily manage their time and feel a lesser urge to procrastinate.
I encourage everyone in the Wayland community to watch some videos from Khan Academy, a leader in flipped teaching. They’re amazingly concise, engaging and easy to sit through; if this these were my assignments, two hours of homework per day would be much less daunting, and the extra twenty-something minutes each block would mean more time to ask questions and churn through harder material. Additionally, a flipped approach makes it easier for students to work around time crunches, since content and assignments don’t need to be tied to specific dates.
Obviously these ideas seem far-fetched, and no one is arguing that the logistics for any of them are easy, but the benefits are clear and necessary. Sleep deprivation is unacceptable, and we have an array of feasible solutions at our hands. If we want more rest, more sleep cycles and better learning, we have to make changes.