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A real eye-opener: School start times, busy schedules contribute to teens’ sleep deprivation

High school students need more sleep.

According to a study conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the average teen needs nine to nine and a half hours of sleep per night, but gets only between seven to seven and a half hours of sleep each night.

Recently, parents, students and educators have begun asking whether high schools should adjust their start times to allow students to get more sleep. Rob Moore, a Principal in Clarence Central School District says that the reason Clarence High School starts at 8:55 a.m. is to allow older students to get more sleep.

Lexi Modeas, a junior at Clarence High School, says she gets an average of seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Although she can sleep later in the morning, she also stays up later to finish homework.

Niko Modeas, a freshman at Clarence, says he averages eight hours of sleep per night. Sometimes, he wishes school would start earlier.

“After school, I have sports and other activities and it’s late in the day by the time I get home.”

Joe Calandra, a junior at Clarence, says he wishes school would start at 7:45 a.m.

“I would like it to be earlier just because I like to get out (of school) earlier and get on with my day,” he says. “I mean, you’re not going to do anything at 5:30 in the morning, but you know at 2:45 you can actually do things.”

Williamsville Central High Schools begin at 7:45 a.m. Neena Bhala, a sophomore at Williamsville South, gets seven hours of sleep on average per night. Even though Neena says she often feels tired, she would not want her school to start later because she would not have enough time to do all of her homework and to practice her instrument.

Sarah Schwartz, a senior at Williamsville North, also gets on average seven hours of sleep per night. She, like Neena, feels tired throughout the day but would still not want her school to start later because she would not have enough time for homework.

These students all get an average of seven to eight hours of sleep every night regardless of what time their school starts. So perhaps students are tired during the day because of their workloads, not the time of day that school starts.

Most high school students are involved in at least one sport, play a musical instrument, participate in clubs, or hold part-time jobs, and many have a combination of these commitments. In addition, they have hours of homework every night.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Martzloff of the Williamsville Central School District believes that the problem does not lie with school start times.

“We live in a sleep-deprived society,” he says. “Whether you are a parent, a student, a teacher, or community member. We live in a fast-paced, global society where we always have a lot to do.”

Starting school later does give students the option of getting more sleep. However, with the amount of work and activities, students end up staying up later and get the same amount of sleep as those students whose school starts earlier.

So, while the debate about school start times continues, perhaps the real debate should be about the amount of activities and commitment of high school students.

Ariya Roberts is a freshman at Williamsville North High School.