Heavy workloads and late-night texting mean many students at Holy Spirit High School in Conception Bay South are spending their school days sleep deprived.
"I just can't sleep," Grade 9 student Jessalyn Collins told Ramona Dearing on a special student edition of CBC Radio's CrossTalk. "Sometimes I'm up viewing things, or just trying to get homework done."
While some students say they use the silent function on their phones at bedtime, many others can't resist the tug of an incoming text.
"You just hear notifications," said Grade 12 student Shannon Earles. "I'm in a couple group chats, and those are bad. Because it's like 13 people, and you'll get a message at five in the morning that's like, 'hey, who's up?' and then three people who have not said anything, are like 'I am!' "
When homework doesn't help
But more than social media, students cite school workload as the biggest reason they're pushing back bedtimes.
"We stay up very late, thinking about projects due the next day. I'm a perfectionist myself, and I want everything to be perfect," said Grade 11 student Sarah Soper.
Neurologist Dr. Shelly Weiss told The St. John's Morning Show that chronic sleep deprivation — when an individual consistently operates on little sleep, as opposed to just one night — has always been a problem for teenagers, but never more so than in today's society.
"Kids have always had many demands on their time. Working, homework, socializing. But now it's worse, because there's also so much technology, and it's so much easier to stay up at night," said Weiss.
Weiss recommends teenagers sleep between 8½ and 9½ hours a night, more than most currently get.
Is sleeping in the answer?
Students at Holy Spirit High School are split about whether a later start time would make them less sleep deprived. Classes now begin at 8:20 a.m.
"I think it could be a good idea," said Jessalyn Collins. "Because I know that a lot of my friends go to sleep later. Some of them don't sleep at all, most nights. And I think it would be helpful to go to school an hour or a couple hours later."
Many others disagreed. Haylee Field, a Grade 10 student, said a later start time would eat into her busy afternoon.
"You're getting out around 4 or 5 o'clock, and that doesn't give you much time for extracurriculars. It doesn't give you a lot of time for work, homework, or whatever else you need to do."
Teacher Beth Peddle said there are pros and cons to starting school later, with her big concern that extracurricular activities would take a hit.
Peddle also pointed out that students can build an inner will to avoid the temptations of technology.
"I think it's our responsibility to turn off our phones, to put them on silent, to put them away when we're doing our homework. To turn off the TV when we have to concentrate on something else, and to be extremely present in whatever we're doing, even if that's sleeping," Peddle said.
"I do think that texting is getting a little bit crazy. It's exciting to always be so connected to our friends, but I think that a big part of it is we have to say, it's time to turn it off, or it's time to turn it on."