The Dangers of Teen Sleep Deprivation: Benefits of Adopting Later Start Times for High Schools

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“Bueller?…Bueller?” The monotone history teacher appearing in the popular 1980’s film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” proceeds to take role-call in his morning history class: a positively lethargic group of students, comically struggling to stay awake. As the teacher monotonously pronounces each name on the attendance list, one student gives a deadpan stare, mouth slightly agape and eyes drooping, while another student can’t beat the fatigue and sleeps with his head on his desk as a trickle of drool escapes his mouth. While this comic scene takes place on a Hollywood set, it is not far removed from many classroom situations across the country as Aarthi Belani, a high school student from Minnesota, notes about the 7:20 a.m. chemistry class she took her junior year. “It was an ungodly hour to be studying chemistry,” she recalls with a shiver; “In the first period, 75 percent of the kids would have their heads down on their desk at one time or another” (Bettelheim 4). Students in high schools from Maine to California find it equally grueling to stay awake during their morning classes since more and more schools choose to open their doors at the crack of dawn, many around 7:30 a.m. and some as early as 7:05 a.m. Dr. James B. Maas, a sleep expert and psychology professor at Cornell University, found that on average, 20 percent of high school students are so fatigued that they sleep at some point during the school day each week (Crombie 2). That’s a lot of beat kids in this country, a fact which has countless sleep experts, lawmakers, parents and teachers alarmed by the groggy state of America’s youth. High schools in this country simply start too early. Teenagers are being forced to ignore their bodies’ natural sleep/wake patterns in...

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