I was an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kid, but when I hit eighth grade a few years ago, that all changed. It is well documented that the sleep patterns of teenagers are significantly different from those of children and adults. I’d imagine most families with a teenager could verify this as well. 

There is a shift in the adolescent brain; specifically the circadian rhythm that controls the sleep-wake cycle shifts up to two hours later during adolescence. The effect of this change causes teenagers to be more wakeful at night and get their best, most productive sleep after 11 p.m., with the most valuable hours for sleep being between 3 and 7 a.m. When high school students have to get up between 6:00 and 7:00 in the morning to get to school on time, we are cutting into our most valuable hours of sleep and are often overtired during the school day. The chronic sleep deprivation that ensues has been shown to have significant negative effects on learning, abstract thinking and memory, as well as taxing strains on the mental, emotional and physical health of students. With too little sleep, incidents of moodiness, depression, anxiety, [lack of] attention, injury, and car accidents rise. 

Getting anywhere close to the recommended sleep for an adolescent, eight to ten hours, just isn’t possible when high school starts at 7:40 a.m. Students who participate in extracurricular activities and sports are often up until at least 11 p.m. doing schoolwork, and even when schoolwork is in hand, we’re not getting the kind of quality sleep we need until after 11 p.m. Being chronically tired for the four years of school when the mind is developing so rapidly, and that colleges pay close attention to, is exhausting and stressful. I can appreciate firsthand why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that high school not start before 8:30 a.m. (The American Academy of Pediatrics has a clear outline of these issues and recommendations, www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/let-them-sleep-aap-recommends-delaying-start-times-of-middle-and-high-schools-to-combat-teen-sleep-deprivation.aspx.)

An additional hour of sleep every night would significantly benefit our health, well-being, brain development, academic and creative potential, and achievement.

Families in the three local districts considering a later school start time can learn more at www.startschoollater.net/me---midcoast.html.

Seth Sweet, Sophomore, Camden Hills Regional High School, Rockport