As a high school principal I see it on the faces of our students. They are tired, really tired. AP courses, IB courses, athletic practices and contests, community service, plays, concerts, homework. With seniors, throw in college applications and essays and our students suffer from sleep deprivation.
We have all read the research on sleep and teenagers and how they would benefit from delayed school starts. In fact, our district has adjusted high school times with first period starting at 7:55 AM. While students would like it even earlier it has helped students. On our one-hour delayed starts on Wednesdays for staff PD, students greatly enjoy classes starting at 8:20 AM and it is clear on their faces how much another 25 minutes benefits students.
But what about everyone else, even adults who consistently get insufficient sleep night after night?
How much sleep do we all need? The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep a night in order for the body and mind to function well.
What does that mean? What is function well? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, affecting negatively every aspect of our lives, from our relationships, to our work performance, and our health.
Car accidents, hypertension, diabetes, depression and early death are all related to a lack of sleep. Cancer in mice, weight gain and other health hazards are also related to a lack of sleep. The University of Rochester research states that during sleep the brain does maintenance, clearing itself of chemical waste products.
Do you want your child taking the ACT on sleep deprivation? Driving home from a waitressing job? What about the surgeon doing your heart surgery? Your child's teacher supervising them on the playground? Grading their essay? Valeting your car? Testing your child's car seat as an automotive engineer or testing your air bags? Monitoring your house alarm?
One 2003 study showed that losing two hours of sleep in one night had the same affect of drinking two to three beers.
"Cyber-loafing" is a new term, referring to people with inadequate sleep affecting their ability to do their job, instead visiting entertainment or social media sites instead of being able to be productive and engage in professional decision-making. Is that you? One of your colleagues?
Are our students tired? Yes. But what about our staffs? What about us as parents? As doctors? Truck drivers? Bankers? Engineers? Architects?
If a lack of sleep negatively affects all of our performances what can we do to be more productive and make better decisions at work? Research states we need to get healthier by getting more sleep every night. And encourage our children to get more sleep also.
Leave our electronic devices out of our bedrooms and focus on our sleep health. According to the research, our lives depend on it.