The High Schooler’s Sleep Dilema


Sonja Woerner

Junior Jersey Bilyeu sleeps in their first period after staying up late for jazz band the night before.

Few people know how to help teenagers reach and maintain a regular sleep schedule, including themselves. Because of our misconceptions, high schoolers are sleep deprived. 

Many studies show this may be due to the amount of time students spend on their phones before bed. One study done by CBS has demonstrated 40% of adolescents are on their phones within five minutes of laying down in bed. 

“Studies demonstrate we sleep less when we use an electronic device before bed, yet many of my patients believe ‘it helps them’ to fall asleep. The fact is—this just isn’t true,” said Susan Halverson, MD Pediatrician. 

Sleep phase delay, caused by puberty starting in adolescents, happens when your sleep cycle is two hours or longer behind a typical cycle, resulting in later bedtimes and later rise times. When this shift in your circadian rhythm begins, if it is not properly cared for, it may lead to adolescents staying up later and later.

When teens ignore this change by staying up late talking to friends, doing homework or scrolling social media they only harm themselves. According to Halverson, a study conducted in 2010, found that only 8% of U.S. high school students get the recommended amount of sleep.

At the end of the week, many teens are drained by the amount of sleep they missed out on and use the weekend to ‘catch up’ on sleep, which is not possible biologically. Sleeping for too-long periods of time can also cause exhaustion and only makes it harder to adjust to the school schedule come Monday. 

“I recommend no more than 1-2 hours past [your weekday] bedtime or wake time on the weekends,” said Halverson. 

Some schools accommodate students’ later sleep schedules by having a later start time compared. Cedar Rapids Prairie and Linn-Mar High School are examples of this, with school hours ranging from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Every high school in the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s hours are  7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. 

A loss in instruction time by leaving early for activities and athletics, later practice times for activities and athletics and less time at night for homework come as drawbacks to later start times. Later start times punish students who are supposed to benefit, those who are involved and, as a consequence, need more sleep.

Teachers and administrators alike are at a loss for how to get high schoolers an appropriate amount of sleep. AS CRCSD considers later start times, we must consider what is best for the students.