The Night Owl Effect

Students are coming to school feeling way too tierd, but why?

Students are coming to school feeling way too tierd, but why?

Maggie McDonald

For most Franklin High students, alarm clocks go off well before they should. Recent studies have shown that more and more teens are being diagnosed with sleeping disorders normally reserved for adults.

The day begins long before 7;35  for most students. Some Franklin High students, like junior Jamie Marinella, wake up as early as 5:45 in order to get to school on time.

“I’m so tired” Marinella  says during second period. “I go to bed at ten on school nights and eleven on weekends” says Marinella, but not because of sports or home work.

“It’s because I’m not tired until late at night.”  admits Marinella . “And I have ADD. It is much harder to focus on work when all I want to do is sleep”

The National Center on Sleeping Disorders (NCSDR)  has named teenagers and young adults (ages 12 to 25) as high risk for developing sleeping disorders.

Surpriseingly sleeping disorders can lead to learning disabilities such as ADHD, Dyslexia, and ADD.

The one sleeping disorder that effects more adolescents then adults is called Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) or Night Owl Syndrome. Between five and ten percent of teens have a serious form of DSPS but it is estimated that a much high percentage of teens have a milder, undiagnosed case of DSPS.

DSPS is caused when the hormone melatonin, which relaxes the body to help it fall asleep, is released later. Melatonin is released as a part of our internal clock called circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm syncs the body with day time and night time so we can be alert during the day and a sleep at night.People who suffer from DSPS may not feel tired until four in the morning.

DSPS often can be diagnosed as depression or ADHD when the problem is not really the brain’s ability, but how little the brain can work with out much sleep.

Sleep studies by the National Sleep Foundation shows that sleep can affect alertness, concentration, and participation in school. Sleep recharges the body and mind, getting it ready for the next day.

“I go to bed at nine every night and I’m still tired when i wake up” says freshmen Aubrie Kutil, “When I’m tired, I don’t even try”

According to a study done by Brown University Professor Mary Carskadon, the hormone melatonin is released later at night in teens then it is in adults and young children. The same study showed that melatonin levels remained high through out the morning.

“Children learn from kindergarten on about the food pyramid,” Carskadon said. “But no one is teaching them the life pyramid that has sleep at the base. Add to that the disrespect that sleep gets when schools say you have to be there at such an early time. So why should they think sleep is important?”

“I normally go to be at three am” says junior Awesha Ghosh. “I’d go to bed earlier but I have to do AP work”

Beacuse melitonin is released in teens at later times then in adults,  adolescents need to sleep later then adults and go to bed after them.Young kids may need more sleep then teenagers, but their body’s release melatonin early in the evening so they wake up early in the morning.

How to get more sleep

Doctors recommend avoiding caffeinated beverages and sugar within two hours before sleep. Although it is hard for students, try to aim for a 9pm bed time in order to wake up at 6am.

“I go to bed late,” says FHS junior Rachel O’Donnell “because I have to do all my home work and then when I finish, I’m still stressing about what I’m going to have to do tomorrow:”

Technology can be the worse thing to do before bed. Cell phones, iPods, computers, and TV’s all.emit light delaying the release of melatonin.

“More active technologies are worse for sleep because of the psychological effect of being stimulated at night,” Lauren Hale, associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook (N.Y.) University School of Medicine says. “When you turn on the TV or game, it may be easier to fall into the trap of doing it for longer than you had imagined”

Sleeping pills that can lead to drowsiness the next day. A melatonian pill only adds to the amount of melatonin in your body.

According to Dr. Suresh Kotagal of the Mayo Clinic Melatonin and sleeping pills affect the same part of the brain as alcohol, just not as severely.

Being awake while you have melatonin in your system can have catastrophic effects. According to National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration,  out of the nearly 50,000 accidents were caused by drowsiness in 2005, half involved teen drivers

Doctors recommend to try more natural remedies such as passion flower or chamomile. Also, don’t use technology for at least a half hour before you go to bed. Also, manage your time and prioritize assignments.

How can the shool help tired teens?

Constant complaining from tired students led some school systems  to try out a later start to the school day. Pediatricians and sleep experts applaud this to be the best effort a school system can make to keep students alert.

“People tell me that changing school start times to later is just mollycoddling the kids,” said Kyla Wahlstrom, interim director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. “I’d say they are people who don’t want to accept the fact that there is a different biology for teens.”

Schools started changing school hours long ago. According to the Washington Post, in 1998 when schools in Minneapolis pushed starting time for school forward an hour to start at 8:30, for 50,000 high school students.

Teachers reported that students were more alert and willing to learn. The number of students with depression and eating disorders significantly dropped.

Parents worried getting out later would effect after school jobs and sports, many bosses were not upset with the hour change. Even though practices were shortened, many teams played better then they did the year before and coaches were excited to see the energy levels raised in their kids.

It seems clear that the best way the school can combat students’ daydreams is allowing them to sleep later, so why doesn’t every school do it?

In Florida, one school system wanted to change their starting time from 7:05 to 9:00, but parents struck the idea down, because they worried that they wouldn’t be able to drop their kids off in time and still make it to work.

But, if Franklin was to change its school times, even just swapping the high school start time with the elementary school start time, would the best time to do it be now?

With the new school going in and the paring lot closing, kids are going to have to wake up earlier then they already do. And if Jamie has to wake up at 5;45 just to get to school on time with out having to worry about finding a parking space, she will have to wake up much earlier once construction begins.

Is it time Franklin wakes up to sleeping in?

Should School Start Later?

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