CDC: 70% of High School Students Don’t Get Enough Sleep. What Can We Do About It?


Sagi Rudnick

Slider photo by Sagi Rudnick.

Most high school students in America, to the tune of 70 percent, are not getting enough sleep, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Some estimates go even further, reporting that 85 percent of teenagers do not get an adequate amount of sleep, as reported by the National Sleep Foundation. So what’s considered enough sleep? What happens when you don’t get it? And how can we fix this nation-wide problem?

While specific estimates vary regarding the amount of sleep teenagers should be getting every night, the consensus among medical professionals is that teens should get eight to 10 hours of sleep per day. Getting the right amount of sleep every night is imperative for good physical and mental health.

A poll of HBHA high school students shows that 81 percent of kids think that they are not getting enough sleep. Photo by Sagi Rudnick.

Teenagers who do not get at least eight hours of sleep every night increase their risk for health and behavioral problems. Not getting enough sleep can limit your ability to learn, listen, focus, and retain information. It can lead to mood swings, resulting in aggressive behavior, and falling asleep in class. It can cause you to crave unhealthy foods, leading to weight gain. It can lead to getting sick, not using equipment safely, or drowsy driving, which can result in traffic accidents. It can even contribute to skin problems like acne.

There are quite a few solutions to combat this nationwide deprivation of sleep among teenagers. Taking a nap during the day, as long as it’s under an hour and far enough away from your bedtime, can help you feel refreshed and work more efficiently. Keeping your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark also aids in getting quality sleep. Efficient time management regarding homework is key to getting enough sleep as well. Staying away from electronic devices before going to bed is also important, as the bright light emanating from these devices tells your brain to wake up. The actual online content you view before bed can also disturb your sleep.

Later start times for middle and high schools has also been introduced as an important action to take so teenagers can get enough sleep naturally. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 in the morning. However, 93 percent of high schools and 83 percent of middle schools in America currently start the school day before this time. Teenagers today are engaged in a plethora of activities, ranging from taking work-intensive Advanced Placement courses, to participating in school sports, to working part-time jobs. These activities take up much of their day, leaving them with not enough time to get adequate sleep. So altering school hours to more closely match up with teenagers’ lifestyles and biological sleep cycles could help curb sleep deprivation.

Sleep is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but school and homework are known to interfere with that. Photo by Sagi Rudnick.

Sleep is fuel for the brain. We need it to function and live our daily lives. Getting the proper amount of sleep is especially important for teenagers, but is critical for everyone. So tonight, after you’ve read this article, stay away from electronics. Make sure your sleeping environment is optimal. Plan your schedule wisely. And if you need to refresh yourself with a midday nap, go for it. If you take these simple steps, you’re sure to get a good night’s sleep.