American teens aren’t getting enough sleep each night because of the early start of the school year and the many things they are asked to do every day, an expert warns.
Lisa Lewis, a California-based journalist and public health expert, warns that a majority of American teenagers don’t get the recommended nine to 11 hours of sleep each night – but thinks the problem can be fixed.
She says the school’s early start times are the main culprit, with many pupils having to wake up as early as 5 a.m. to attend lessons.
Many have warned that this severe sleep deprivation can lead to long-term mental health issues, riskier behaviors and even permanent brain damage from lack of rest.
Lisa Lewis (pictured), warns that sleep deprivation in American teens leads to poor mental health across the board. She puts most of the blame on school’s early start times
Lewis has advocated for the morning bells to be turned back to better accommodate America’s children and hopes her work can help teens live happier, healthier lives.
“Too many teams are falling short of the amount of sleep they need,” Lewis told DailyMail.com.
She noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey found in 2019 that only 22% of high school students slept at least eight hours a night.
Much of this can be related to the schedule imposed on teenagers due to their school.
Many teenagers wake up before sunrise. After school, they also have to take care of extracurricular activities, work and family chores, which requires them to be on their feet longer than usual.
Teens are also tied to their phones, and with social media now such a big part of a youngster’s life, it’s easy for them to waste a few hours at night scrolling.
The same CDC survey also found that about 30% of high school students felt sad or hopeless, with a staggering one in five having even considered suicide. Lewis thinks sleep deprivation plays a key role.
“We know that sleep deprivation exacerbates mental health issues,” she explained.
“We have stronger emotions when we haven’t had enough sleep. It also intensifies impulsive behaviors, which unfortunately plays into suicidal behaviors.
To combat this, Lewis has become one of the nation’s leading advocates for rolling back school start times.
In 2016, she wrote an editorial in the Los Angeles Timeshighlighting the risks of sleep deprivation among young Americans.
Some of the main negatives cited by teenagers for not getting enough sleep include increased time missed from school, better test scores in schools that started later, more traffic accidents, and more. fewer injuries during team sports, as student-athlete bodies were better rested.
Lewis explains the teenage sleep deprivation epidemic in his new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Fated, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive
She also highlights these concerns in her new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Fated, and How Parents and Schools Can Help Them Thrive.
The editorial caught the attention of a local lawmaker who pushed a bill that would prevent high schools in the state from starting before 8:30 a.m. and push the start of middle school to 8 p.m. or later.
After being passed in 2019, the law is expected to come into effect for the 2022-23 school year starting this fall.
The law is not without critics, however. State teachers’ unions rallied against her. In a editorial published earlier this yearJeremy Adams, a teacher at Bakersfield High School, wrote:
“It’s a disaster in the making.
“The directors are exhausted and tired of being yelled at by everyone with an ax to grind. Administrators are colossally overwhelmed and frankly zombie-like these days as they swing from one crisis to the next. Teachers are demoralized, discouraged and honestly, many of us are at breaking point…
“The last thing students need right now is less stability, less routine and less predictability from year to year. Now is not the time for more changes.
One of his main concerns is that students won’t have time to participate in many extracurricular programs after school hours because the last bell will ring later in the day.
Lewis doesn’t see this as a particularly big issue, though. She said teenagers who work after school often work lunch hours anyway.
There is also no data indicating a correlation between the end of a scheduled school day and changes in extracurricular participation – meaning that teenagers are unlikely to be expelled from sports.
Although they have an hour less at the end of the day, gaining an hour of sleep earlier in the day will lead to better overall health and better school performance.
She’s pushing for other parents across the country to fight for similar changes in their own communities to help solve the epidemic of teen sleep deprivation.