Teens are Losing More Sleep Than Ever

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

“Like my status if you’re up.” “Double tap if you’re up.” “#breakingnight.” These are just some of the updates teenagers post late at night on social media.

“It’s like a constant communication,” one high school senior told Radio Rookie Temitayo Fagbenle in her report.

Young people used to have sleepovers on the weekends and stay up all night talking, but now, it’s like they’re having unlimited sleepovers, seven nights a week in their own bedrooms. 

Teenagers should get about nine hours of sleep a night but, according to the National Sleep Foundation, the average teenager sleeps a little over seven hours a night. 

This story is part of the WNYC sleep project. Over April and May, as part of this data news experiment, the fitness company Jawbone gave us wristbands so teenagers could have a simple way to log their sleep, and see what happened next. Kiara Acevedo and Emely Munoz, students at HERO High School in the Bronx, joined us after listening to Temi's piece to explain more about what's keeping teens awake.


Kaari Pitkin


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Comments [6]

John Fitzsimons

Despite the wealth of research on sleep deprivation and its effects on growing adolescents, the school day begins before 8 a.m. and ends before 3 p.m. at the majority of high schools in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, where I have worked for the past 48 years. I suspect this is the norm in most secondary schools in the country.

If principals and superintendents would take the time to review the literature and the importance of sufficient sleep for adolescents, they would find substantial support and reasons to change to later school starting and ending times.

Why schools lack the will to address the issue of sleep deprivation is truly puzzling..
Resistance comes from many quarters. One loud voice opposing change frequently comes from a school’s athletic department—a department that carries much political clout in most school communities. Generally, the coaches resist any change, fearing that a late school dismissal time will wreak havoc with scheduling of games and contests, especially “away games” that require long bus rides.

Reactions from the Field In light of the compelling research on sleep deprivation and its negative effects on adolescents’ performance, the small sampling of responses I received from practicing administrators was most disappointing. I had emailed draft manuscripts on the issue of adolescent sleep deprivation, citing much of the research to 10 principals and 12 superintendents located in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, soliciting their reactions.

Few bothered to respond. Several simply complimented my work and said they had nothing to add. Of the principals of the two districts cited, one never responded, and the other had nothing to add and did not mention changing the 7:25 a.m. start time at his high school.

Several superintendents did challenge the assumption that the later start time was no guarantee that adolescents would take advantage and sleep longer. One superintendent suggested that parents could resolve the issue by better supervising their children. None found the argument compelling enough to challenge the status quo, and one said it was not worth the loss of political capital. With such resistance, and so little political will on the part of educational leaders, one can see why early start and dismissal times will remain firmly in place.
In this age of school reforms and its demand for accountability and improved student performance, why not begin by simply changing school start and end times?

John T. Fitzsimons, Ph.D., retired superintendent of schools

May. 15 2014 06:10 PM

Really-why do parents think they need to be a friend and not protect their children?

No excuses-parents you need to suck it up. These teens will bomb on the important things in life. Make the hard choices for them-that is why you are the adult and they are the children.

May. 14 2014 09:30 AM
Nancy from NY

Parents DO have control. Take your kids phones and disconnect their computers at 10:00pm EVERY night. Charge them in your room so you know that they stay out of your teens reach. They'll hate you for it but that's called parenting. They aren't supposed to love you like a friend at this age. I did this with both my kids until second semester senior year and they got good sleep because of it. I teach HS and I see more and more kids physically and mentally ill - anxious, depressed, school phobic, harassed, miserable, etc. and their 24/7 connection and LACK of sleep is a big part of why this is so. Parents need to parent.

May. 13 2014 09:41 PM
Tennis07 from MADISON, NJ 07940

This is what happens when kids don't have 24 X 7 parental supervision, as if that is even possible. Only one solution truly works, shut down the internet and have the kids hand the phones to the parent that is the sternest at bedtime. This creates a similar problem to shiftwork--hard to readjust your inner clock when your shift changes.

May. 13 2014 08:26 PM

I'm concerned that people actually sleep with their phones under the pillow. I won't even begin to delve into the psychology of that, but are they not AT ALL concerned about the radiation and long term health effects?!!

May. 13 2014 07:31 PM
john from office

Fear for the future folks.

May. 13 2014 06:47 AM

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