Peninsula high school students learn about dangers of sleep deprivation

ATHERTON, Calif. (KGO) -- A growing number of teenagers say they regularly sacrifice sleep in the name of studying, but for one group of Bay Area high school students, sleep recently became their curriculum.

From a wired lifestyle, to the increasing demands of homework, Bay Area high school students have more distractions and responsibilities than ever before. And for many, it's taking a toll at night.

"Typically, I get six to seven hours of sleep and when I wake up I'm tired," said Elton Rosicki, a Menlo-Atherton High School student.

"Plenty of people fall asleep in class, I think," Abby Lindquist, a Menlo-Atherton high School student said.

Doctor Rafael Pelayo is a clinical professor at Stanford and researcher at the university's sleep center. He conducted a crash course with students from Menlo-Atherton High School on the dangers of sleep deprivation.

"It effects their memory, their academic performance, their athletic performance, it effects their whole family," Pelayo said.

Recent studies found 87 percent of high school students in the United States get less than the recommended 8 and a half hours of sleep and 28 percent reported falling asleep at school at least once a week.

During the class, students experience the same kind of high-tech sleep monitoring techniques researchers use to probe the patterns of problem sleepers. In a control room a few feet away, technicians display readings taken during recent clinical studies showing what really happens during sleep.

"It's showing the brain waves where they're actually sleeping," a technician said. "This is stage two sleep and how it changes."

"The reason we look at teenagers is teenagers need more sleep than adults," Pelayo said. "Because these teens are getting less sleep than their parents."

It may be easier to change patterns earlier in life. Pelayo says the class the high school students are taking has been offered to undergraduates at Stanford University for years with lasting results.

"They often tell us they remember this and take it with them," Pelayo said. "Hopefully if we start this at the high school level we'll have an even greater impact."

And perhaps this will help them to better chase their dreams, in both sleep and in life.

One recent study even suggested that high schools should avoid early start times, before 8 a.m. to give students a chance to sleep a bit longer.

Written and produced by Tim Didion.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.