Dear Mr/Madam President,
In our society today we face several issues. Many being political but some being smaller, yet just as important, social issues. Sleep deprivation in the high school students of America being one. Due to societal pressures, many teenagers believe they must have a social life, exceptional grades, and participate in extracurriculars. Not only do they feel the need to do all of this, but they also have obligations at home too. The National Sleep Foundation states that kids on average spend six to seven hours at school, two to four hours on homework each night, two to five hours on extracurriculars (sports, clubs, or social events, etc.), and are expected to receive eight to ten hours of sleep each night. What they don’t include is the time teenagers use to procrastinate, spend time with/help their family, and the time used to shower or eat. This would mean on a standard night for a student all of the time spent on homework, extracurriculars, and at school would add up to be sixteen hours. This would only allow for eight hours of sleep, which is the minimum for what is expected. But what about the nights when a teenager has to do more than this? Or when an emergency occupies their time? Are they just supposed to not obtain the correct amount of sleep and accept the consequences?
What about the times that a teenager is up until two o’clock in the morning working on a project or studying because that was the only time they could fit it into their schedule; but they weren’t able to finish because they had an anxiety attack and decided to sleep it off? Due to the increase in the overwhelming amount of work given to teenagers in the past few years, anxiety, depression, and many other stress related disorders have become more common in teenagers. Psychology Today has determined that nearly five to eight percent more American teenagers are diagnosed with a disorder every year. I am included in that percentile. Recently, have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. The cause has not been completely determined, but considering the drastic change in my sleep schedule since summer vacation my doctor has been able to infer that it is connected to sleep deprivation and stress from my daily life. Scientists have done several studies to conclude why there has been such an increase in teens, much like myself, diagnoses. The leading cause was teenagers not receiving enough sleep. The second being pressures from academics and the third being social pressures. After hearing about these results you may begin to question why the social situations weren’t the leading causes of these mental disorders. I did the same thing. But as I looked further into scientist’s research I was able to discover why this is. Dr. Renake is a neurologist who works for the National Sleep Foundation, his research has been able to inform us that because teenage brain’s are still developing, sleep is the most important thing for them. If they do not receive enough sleep, their brains will not develop correctly. This may cause some damage to neurological stimulators that trigger emotions, or dopamine, that is spread throughout the brain. So because teenagers brain’s are not growing correctly, these illnesses are becoming more common. Not only are these illnesses becoming more prominent, but eating disorders are as well. The growth of anorexia has flown through the roof in the last eight years. Teenagers are finding that it is easier to focus on doing hours of homework and social outings, rather than eating. Teenagers are forgetting to eat because they are so overscheduled.
Mr/Madam President, you may be wondering why I have chose to talk about this topic considering many of these letters will be focused on more political or social issues. But this is the truth of what is affecting the future leaders of America. How are we supposed to rely on this generation if they/we aren’t receiving enough sleep and are being exposed to disorders that play a major role in their life? We need to fix this and prevent it from damaging America. Studies done by Stanford University have explored the possibility of starting school at a later time. “Other studies have reinforced the link between later start times and positive health benefits. One 2010 study at an independent high school in Rhode Island found that after delaying the start time by just 30 minutes, students slept more and showed significant improvements in alertness and mood. And a 2014 study in two counties in Virginia found that teens were much less likely to be involved in car crashes in a county where start times were later, compared with a county with an earlier start time.”(Stanford Medicine) If schools across America were able to start later we would be able to receive a positive growth in the well being of teens in America. A decrease in stress, mental disorders, and car accidents have been the main benefits of the schools that tried a later start time. Along with later start times, cutting back on homework or limiting extracurriculars may be beneficial as well. Stanford University studies have also brought the idea that teens may not even realize this is happening. “They say they are tired, but they don’t realize they are actually sleep-deprived. And if you ask kids to remove an activity, they would rather not. They would rather give up sleep than an activity.” (Stanford Medicine) If parents were encouraged to limit, but not eliminate, extra activities teens would have more time to sleep and less stress piled onto them to excel in the activity.
After sharing what teenagers in America have to deal with in their daily lives, and have proposed different ways to prevent this, you are able to conclude that sleep deprivation is a growing epidemic in America that needs to be stopped. It is an unhealthy way of living that is making the future of America lack standards of where they need to be to achieve what they need to. If teenagers were able to have guidance on where to find a balance in their life, have later school times, and cut back on homework or limit extracurriculars, this complication to society may be resolved. “For the health and well-being of the nation, we should all be taking better care of our sleep, and we certainly should be taking better care of the sleep of our youth.”(Stanford Medicine)