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Teens Explore Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Have you noticed that your high school students get too little sleep? Have you noticed that a lack of sleep might affect the school performance of your students? Science teacher Andrea Lynne Winkle is using the Internet to collect data related to students' sleep patterns. Any high school teacher is invited to participate! Included: Learn how to collect information and access that information on the project home page.

Andrea Lynne Winkle, who teaches science at Hamilton High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, noticed that her first-period students seemed extremely tired every morning. "I was curious about how this fatigue affected their schooling, whether it was just my class or all others, and whether there were any patterns," Winkle explains to Education World.

Winkle took her wonderings a step further. She designed an Internet project that involves adolescents in tracking their sleep patterns for a week. Students collect data and share it with others who participate in the project.

The purpose of the project is for students to explore how their sleep patterns affect their health, grades, and performance in class, Winkle says. Sharing the data with other schools through the Internet allows students to look for similar sleep patterns among other students and to determine how the amount of sleep they get affects their daily lives. Teachers may continue to submit data until May 30.

The project, Are You Getting Enough Sleep?, is a collaboration of the Milwaukee Public Schools, the Greater Milwaukee Schools, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Mathematics and Science Education Research. The goal of this and other collaborative projects is to help science, math, and social studies teachers develop their abilities to use the Internet for instruction in the classroom.

The sleep project is one of several collaborative online projects sponsored by this same coalition, which makes one or two online projects available per grade level. In most of the projects, students collect data and share it with other classrooms.

So far, eight classes have participated in the project. Winkle notes that middle grade students have reported that they generally get enough sleep, but the amount decreases for older middle school and high school students. However, nearly all the students responded that they try to catch up on sleep on weekends.

The results varied significantly, with sleep totals ranging from six to eight hours nightly. Some students reported sleeping as little as four hours nightly.



The relationship between the amount of sleep and classroom performance varied. "One teacher found no correlation between less sleep and poorer grades whereas another teacher did," Winkle tells Education World. "One teacher also found no correlation between absence due to illness and sleep amounts."

Sleep research indicates that sleep patterns and sleep needs change when children become adolescents. Studies show that most adolescents need more than eight hours of sleep each night. Because of their biological clocks, however, many teens are unable to fall asleep early enough in the evening to awaken rested for early-morning high school start times. This accounts for sleepy high school students in morning classes.

Winkle suggests the project be lengthened in the future. "The project actually needs to be expanded to ask more-specific questions of the students so more-accurate correlations could be made," Winkle comments.