To fix the sleep epidemic, the 9-5 should not be a master schedule

Being a night owl or an early bird is equally due to genetics, so why should one suffer under the same nationally-accepted schedule?

School+and+work-life+is+built+around+the+9-5+mentality%2C+expecting+everyone+to+be+able+to+wake+up+and+be+functional+at+the+same+time.+However%2C+lots+of+evidence+suggests+that+not+all+teens+are+physically+capable+of+those+feats.

Lara Cayci

School and work-life is built around the 9-5 mentality, expecting everyone to be able to wake up and be functional at the same time. However, lots of evidence suggests that not all teens are physically capable of those feats.

It seems like many people feel there aren’t enough hours in the day, according to how common sleep deprivation is among adults and teens. While people’s circadian rhythms may have been shifted due to the stay-at-home orders put in place due to COVID-19, this problem is considered an epidemic to the CDC: the national sleep crisis. Both adults and teens are experiencing sleep deprivation more in recent years, but the problem is growing significantly in teens. While this sleep deprivation epidemic is very common and frequent among teens, little to no awareness is brought to the negative effects of this on health. Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer countless consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, vitamin D deficiency, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, and increased suicidal tendencies. School and work-life is built around the 9-5 mentality, expecting everyone to be able to wake up and be functional at the same time. However, lots of evidence suggests that not all teens are physically capable of those feats.

People who are more active at night, or night owls, tend to be locked down on and called lazy by the general public due to waking up early being productive during the day being the norm. Night owls aren’t lazy, but just more active and productive at night. While these night owls are looked down upon, there is a very large population of them, especially among teens. A study found that almost 32 percent of teenagers exhibit night owl behavior, with “morning larks” (those more active in the morning and tend to sleep early) representing 25 percent of teens, and the remaining 45 percent falling into an in-between category. A lot of these night owls are simply more capable of being productive at night, making the 8-3 school day very difficult for them as they inevitably suffer from sleep deprivation. This is not their fault since they have to accommodate schedules that are unfit with their body’s natural clock.

Some sleep inconsistencies are due to genetics.”

Some issues, however, are deeper than people simply being night owls. Some of these sleep inconsistencies are due to genetics. There are many circadian rhythm disorders that get undiagnosed since trouble sleeping is often overlooked. They are very difficult to handle. The most common disorder is Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, or DSPD, which causes an abnormal sleep cycle and inability to sleep at proper times due to their unusual circadian rhythm. While their sleep schedules can be altered to up to 2 hours with therapy and sleep medication, any form of modification further than this is very difficult (and not recommended). This disorder is very common and affects up to 15% of all teens and adults. If individuals with DSPD are able to sleep according to the delayed cues of their body, they will not experience any other sleep issues, like sleep deprivation or insomnia, and will live relatively uninhibited lives. When allowed to go to sleep later and wake up later, they continue to get enough sleep and are able to live and function normally. It’s advised for individuals with DSPD to get jobs that allow flexibility with sleep, and not have the average 9-5 sleep schedule. However, what about inflexible commitments like school for teenagers? Since their sleep cycles are unable to be modified or shifted, even with medication, up to half of the individuals with the disorder also suffer from depression, which is likely associated with the negative symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Since their sleep cycles are unable to be modified or shifted, up to half of the individuals with the disorder also suffer from depression.”

Human bodies all have different clocks in regards to sleep, and in some cases, there is absolutely nothing to do about that. So, what can be changed? One sleep cycle should not be considered more respectable than the other. It’s time to recognize that both types of extreme cycles—early birds and night owls—are equally valid. The common 9-5 schedule should not be considered a master schedule that everyone has to follow. Our society needs to adjust in order to prevent the negative consequences of the sleep epidemic. Whether that be allowing later school hours to make sure everyone is equally rested, or the option to choose which classes to take, similar to college classes. There is no reason to stigmatize one sleep pattern over the other, and making changes according to that is the best way to make sure all teens are equally rested and functional.