Should Schools Start Later in the Day?
One of the most common phrases heard in schools is “I’m so tired!” It is especially common in high school students who load themselves with hard classes and multiple extracurriculars. Often, they will stay up late and wake up early to the point where sleep deprivation takes a physical and mental toll on them. Because of all the work high schoolers end up with, the question asked by many people is “Should school start later?”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids and teens alike should get 8-9 hours of sleep per day, however, many teenagers do not naturally fall asleep until past 11 PM. This combined with an early start time means that they do not get the hours of sleep that they need. Teens also tend to be drowsier during the day, and the poor habits that many of them have, such as using electronics right before bed can throw off their schedule. Overall, these factors mean that they do not sleep enough to perform well in school.
The foundation conducted research on students of a school which had changed its start time from 8:25 AM to 7:20 AM. The results showed very negative impact on their health. The average sleep time fell, and none of the students were able to get 8 hours. The source explains that a start time such as 7:20 AM would require a teen to sleep at 9 PM to gain an adequate amount. When considering the many activities they juggle and their biology, that schedule is nearly impossible. Their research demonstrates the importance of a convenient school start time.
Of course, a school time change and a little less sleep may not be a big deal. Many also say that starting school later would mean staying up later than they already are, due to after-school commitments that take a certain time, combined with the amount of homework. However, the consequences of losing so much sleep already can be great. Being more tired causes one to be more at risk of drowsy driving, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that sleep deprivation can cause overweightness, depression, and unhealthy behavior such as drug use. These all take a toll on a student’s performance in school, academically and athletically.
In the inconvenience of sleep deprivation, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that parents can help monitor their teen’s sleep by setting them a bedtime and limiting their use of technology at night. Adopting these good habits helps kids sleep better, which can increase their performance in school. Despite these models, however, the perfect amount of sleep may still not be achieved if schools ask students to be awake too early and if students just cannot finish what they need to do early enough to sleep. For this reason, it is important that school systems hear students out and synchronize their schedule with the students’ biology.
Changing the start time of a school takes an entire community, and while it may affect some positively, it may affect others negatively. The National Sleep Foundation states that “individual communities can vary greatly in their priorities and values,” and that those affected by a time change must have their voices heard. It is important that if school systems truly want students to perform at their best, that they set circumstances in which that can occur; circumstances in which students are at school with the most alertness. The issue is that sleep is not a priority for students nor schools, although it should be. The key to ensuring the health of students in the future is school-student collaboration.