High schools sleeping on chronic teen tiredness

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Tired young people are so common, the sleepy teen has become a well-known trope. Even most adults remember the struggle of getting up early to sit at a school desk without a full night’s sleep. 
 
While teenagers are scorned for their sleep routines, their behaviour has merit. Circadian rhythms—essentially hormonal “body clocks”—shift teenagers’ natural bed and wake-up times later. Simultaneously, university and college applications demand young people are more accomplished than ever, matching high grades with various talents and hobbies.
 
These factors lead to an unavoidable fact: Teen sleep deprivation is an epidemic. It’s preventing growing young people from functioning properly, and it needs to be mitigated as teenagers develop lifelong habits and health patterns. 
 
Most high schools start between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. For rural and suburban students, getting to school for a full day of learning requires them to get on a bus or in a car before 7 a.m. If they miss their morning bus, they miss school. Unexplained absences lead to anxious teens, angry parents, and lost learning time as students face a perpetual struggle to catch up with overdue work. 
 
These cycles impede on teen success, and, more importantly, teen happiness. Exhausted people are unlikely to find joy in relaxation. Teens will never address their poor resting patterns if they’re told it’s acceptable to sacrifice sleep for ambition.
 
Millennial burnout culture glorifies not sleeping, equating late nights with rigour and intelligence. Whether pursuing straight As, playing soccer, or bagging groceries after school, foregoing sleep for a fuller resume is viewed as productive in today’s society. 
 
Particularly as teens compare their successes and try to differentiate themselves, a lack of sleep can increase anxiety and a tendency to ignore self-care.
 
Finding a solution to this issue is challenging. Practically, school must start at the same time as the professional workday. Starting and ending schedules later would mean less time for the extra-curriculars and jobs bringing students fulfillment and experience. 
 
That being said, 13- to 18-year-olds require minimum eight hours of sleep per night. Sleep promotes mental health and necessary recuperation after a long day. It should be prioritized and taught in schools the same way exercise and nutrition are. 
 
This plan can extend to promoting sleep hygiene in curriculums across Canada, making good sleep a non-negotiable part of daily life. Teens should be better taught not to sleep with their phones and to unplug from screens before bed. They should also be made aware of the dangers and effects of sleep deprivation, including obesity, diabetes, and depression. 
 
Left to their own devices, teens are pushing themselves too hard. We need to inform them to prioritize their health—before they grow into adults and normalize a lack of focus and constant yawning.
 
 

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