As teenagers begin to go through puberty, their body undergoes many changes, one of which is a shift in their sleep patterns. While it is known that teens need more sleep than adults, it is not as well known that once a teen reaches puberty, their sleep schedule shifts. When a child is prepubescent, their circadian rhythm will usually tell them it is time for sleep around eight or nine at night, but once they reach puberty, that rhythm will shift back two hours, with their bodies signaling sleep around ten or eleven at night. This natural shift in the circadian rhythm is called a “sleep phase delay” (Sleep and Teens). With this sleep phase delay, and a need for longer sleep hours, normal school times are not conducive for a teen's health.
A typical teenager needs on average nine hours of sleep at night. So if a teenager isn’t being signaled to sleep until eleven o’clock at night, and they need nine hours of sleep, they really shouldn’t be waking up until eight o’clock in the morning. If that is the case, then our school days should not be starting until at least nine o’clock. If we force teens to wake up before they should be, not only are we causing them to suffer from sleep deprivation, we are promoting obesity and inhibiting their ability to learn. With most schools starting their day by seven or eight in the morning, our school system is making our teens unhealthy. We cannot blame teens for falling asleep in class or for having poor eating habits, when we, in fact, are the cause for them. Schools should be pushing back the start of their school days to help our teens stay healthier and to make sure we are giving students the most conducive learning environment possible. Teenagers are not lazy; they are just living in an environment that does not promote proper sleep habits.