TO THE EDITOR: Senior advocates for pushing back the first bell

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Letter to the Editor

Originally published on November 28, 2015

Dear Editor,

Attending Lowell for over three years has been an overwhelmingly enjoyable and enriching experience. Unfortunately, Lowell is far from perfect. One of my biggest issues with the school has been the unbearably early start time of 7:35 a.m. on nearly all school days. Almost by nature, teenagers are hardwired to go to sleep and wake up later than adults. An early start time for school clashes with teenagers’ circadian rhythms, causing sleep deprivation.

Almost by nature, teenagers are hardwired to go to sleep and wake up later than adults.

Firstly, early school start times correlate directly with a loss of sleep. According to a study of over 3,000 high school students done in 1998 by a pair of Brown professors, average bedtimes for teenagers tend to be just after 11 p.m. Combining that with a reasonable wakeup time of around 6:30 a.m. yields an average nightly sleep of just over seven hours. This estimate is likely high, considering that the national average for nightly sleep among high school students is below seven hours. This widespread chronic sleep deprivation is tied to higher BMI and obesity rates, a massive issue the U.S. spends nearly $150 billion annually in medical costs to prevent and treat. Nightly sleep approximately 120 minutes below the medically recommended amount means teenagers get less deep sleep (a part of the sleep cycle involved in growth and development, shout out to Mr. Shimmon) and therefore have bodies that don’t recover and grow the way they should. In extreme cases, this lack of sleep over a long period of time can lead to developmental stunting.

In extreme cases, this lack of sleep over a long period of time can lead to developmental stunting.

Secondly, getting more sleep would actually improve students’ academic performance, something everyone at Lowell cares about. Because sleep deprivation affects focus and concentration, students’ abilities to learn in class when they don’t get enough sleep is decreased, as well as their performances on standardized tests. While differences in test performance for students who get seven hours of sleep as opposed to the optimal nine hours of sleep are disputed, students who average under six hours of sleep tend to have much lower GPAs and SAT scores, a clear product of sleep deprivation. If the average for student sleep is seven hours as opposed to eight, far too many students will actually average under the critical six hour per night rate.

Finally, many high school students are of age to drive, many get to school by driving themselves. Drowsy driving or people falling asleep behind the wheel is already a national problem, accounting for an annual 100,000 car accidents, and putting Lowell students at greater risk of being involved in an accident is a depressing reality of the status quo. Additionally, having students drive or bike to school at a time of the morning that is overcast and poorly lit is a problem. Furthermore, lack of sleep is tied with slower reaction times and poorer judgment skills. On top of this, Lowell athletics don’t reach their full potential because athletes perform worse on game day, but they are also slower to show gains in the weight room.

Raul Rosenfeld

Class of 2016