More Sleep Needed for Teens to Excel

Grace Rickey

Sleep deprivation has become an alarming epidemic with high school students across the nation, and Novato High is certainly not the exception. With a later start time being proposed of potentially 8:30 a.m. for next school year, it’s crucial to examine the detrimental effects of adolescents not getting enough sleep and the impact that has on our very own student population. 

Novato High students have expressed feelings that the culmination of stress from classes, extracurriculars, jobs, and both social and family expectations cause them to lose a significant amount of sleep on a daily basis. 

These demands have more profound ramifications than a feeling of exhaustion as studies have shown a myriad of repercussions, such as lack of concentration, anxiety and depression, lower grades, accidents while driving, and even suicidal thoughts or attempts. 

William Dement, the founder of the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, published his findings regarding the drastic concerns with sleep in high school students explicitly. 

“I think high school is the real danger spot in sleep deprivation,” Dement wrote. “What it means is that nobody performs at the level they could perform, whether it’s in school, on the roadways, on the sports field, or in terms of physical and emotional health.”

Novato High senior Jordan Hovey, the captain of the varsity cheer team and candidate for valedictorian, exemplifies the findings from this study as she attributes her successes and failures to the amount of sleep she gets each night.

“I think sleep is definitely a contributor to your grades. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not going to be able to stay alert in class and perform your best,” Hovey said. “But, as an AP student and athlete, I’ve somewhat managed my sleep schedule, so I’m able to get five hours of sleep in one night and be somewhat fine the next day, as long as I catch up on sleep during the weekend. AP’s, extracurriculars, and sports don’t allow for most students to get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. If I go to bed before twelve, it’s a miracle because there just isn’t enough time in the day for school, practice, work, homework, and eight hours of sleep. At least for me, it’s essentially impossible unless I skip one or more of those things.”

Sophomore, Gavin McMickin, elaborated on why he only gets six hours of sleep. 

“I play lacrosse and basketball, and practices always go pretty late,” McMickin said. “I can’t start homework until I finish with practice, but then I also have to have dinner with my family. It’s stressful because I don’t do as well on tests as I could, and I see my grades drop a little during each season.” 

Sophomore Sophia Bentivegna commented on McMickin’s situation. 

“I really hope we will start later next year because I find myself floating between five to seven  hours of sleep, never more,” Bentivegna said. “I have a lot of out of school commitments, and I don’t think teachers always consider that as they like to throw a lot of last-minute projects and tests on us. I think it’s practically impossible to do it all, as even if you are super organized and regimented on your sleep schedule, you’re sacrificing your grades or extracurriculars.”

MSA Creative Writing teacher, Rebecka Pollack, speculated on the sleep epidemic and offered some possible solutions. 

“I’m not a sleep expert, but I think it would be good for teenagers to get at least seven to eight hours a night,” she said. “I think it’s hard for students to focus when they’re losing that much sleep. It makes it hard for them to multitask and remember things. People can get grumpy. They get sick easily, too, which causes them to miss school and then get overwhelmed. It’s a vicious cycle. I’m not sure if students aren’t getting to bed due to distractions with social media, or if it’s that, we, as teachers, need to start assigning less homework. I think our plan for the future, in order to help students’ well being, should be to target what’s truly the issue here.”