|Brook Costello and Shelley Rich sat side by side in the principal's office at Menlo-Atherton High School recently, ready to talk about feeling sleepy.
It's a subject they have learned a lot more about in the past month.
"What didn't occur to me was that you could make up sleep," Costello said.
One thing the two juniors have learned is that "drowsiness is red alert," especially when driving a vehicle. That's the mantra a team of Stanford students had students chant to reinforce the point that driving while drowsy is equivalent to driving after having had two or three beers.
"That really stuck in my mind," Rich said. "I try not to drive when I'm drowsy now."
Costello said that she has rearranged her schedule to make sleep a priority since the presentations.
"Now I make the choice to go to bed," she said. "It's a new improvement in my life."
The girls still feel the school administration has a responsibility to alter policies and schedules to encourage better sleep habits.
"Starting class at 9 a.m. has been an ongoing issue for me," Rich said.
Costello agreed, dismissing the possible problems it would cause for student athletes.
"People who want to get sleep shouldn't be penalized," she said.
But Rich doubted that later school start times would ever be realized.
"I don't see it happening when we're teenagers," she said. "Our society as a whole kind of doesn't like change."
Costello is holding out hope: "Give or take a year or two, they might get their act together," she said. "I'm definitely not driving my kids to school that early in the morning."
The two students see start times as only the tip of the iceberg of issues confronting today's teens.
"You're talking to the two most stressed-out kids ever," Rich said.
"I don't think it's only high school's fault -- it's more colleges' fault," Costello said. "They've become really hard on students."
"On top of that, teenagers go through a lot of stuff: going through all of these hormonal and mental changes," Rich said.
"That plus schoolwork is, like, 'Oh my gosh, you've got to be joking,'" Costello added.
They also think that at times parents contribute to the pressures on teens.
"They shouldn't push their kids as hard as they are," Rich said. "That's part of what's keeping them up so late."
Costello believes parents can help their kids keep better sleep schedules but admitted parental influence only goes so far.
"If (students) don't want to go to bed, they're not going to go to bed," she said.
Both girls hope that more students -- and their parents, teachers and school administrators -- realize the importance of sleep.
"Sleep is one of those things you need to pay more attention to," Rich said. "There should be something done to get the word out."
— Thea Lamkin-Carughi
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