No doubt every parent has heard their teen groan, “But I’m tired!” at one point or another. Usually when trying to get them up for school and other early-morning obligations.
Still, there is good reasoning behind their reluctance to get out of bed, and their seeming inability to wake up: Teens are being overwhelmed with the pressures of academics, obligations, and friends. While they are expected to start their day even earlier than younger children, they are, in fact, in need of far more sleep than their school and work schedules want to give them.
Teens have their “work day” just like adults: They must get up, get dressed, and go to school. But while classes end around 3 o’clock, most teens are then bombarded with extra-curricular activities—the ones many universities are looking for when they review a potential high school student’s transcript. The pressure is there. Some teens hold down after-school jobs. On top of this, there is always the homework—the after-school assignments that seem to manipulate the greater part of a student’s home time.
A Mass Overwhelming
An article in the Huff Post points out, “Many middle and high schools across the country start the school day at 7:30 a.m. or earlier. For students, this means waking up earlier than most adults are required to do for their jobs.” This makes for preposterously long days for our teens: They could potentially be rising at 6 am to prepare for the 7:30 am school time, then go to work and other after-school commitments. Getting off work at any fast food or retail job means teens could be staying as long as 9 or 10pm before they even get to head home. Then, of course, the homework. This could easily be 2-3 hours a night depending on the amount of work, difficulty of the assignments, and a student’s particular ability to work through whichever subject they have.
With all of this, a student could be looking at 18-hour days, with as little as 5-6 hours of sleep before they start all over again. It is a worrisome trend, and Janet Croft, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga. agrees.
High schools in America, she says, “start at such an early time that most teens are essentially brain dead when they go to these early classes . . . too many students start their day as ‘walking zombies.’”
The CDC is now calling too little sleep in teens an “epidemic.” Our children are suffering from this lack of simple rest.
It is essential that we advocate for more time for our students—less homework, and later school start-times. If teens are constantly deprived of one of their most basic essentials, how many activities they’ve accomplished or how much money they’ve made won’t matter. They will burn out far more quickly than their previous generations, and they won’t get to enjoy much of the fruits of their labors. Plenty of rest will promote plenty of successful work.