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Should school start later?

Rachel Ruggera, Staff Writer

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Sleep deprivation is plaguing students across the U.S. even after numerous studies have shown that teenagers would excel more academically and have better mental health with later school start times.

Teenagers have sleep cycles two hours later than adults, meaning that the majority can’t easily fall asleep until around 11 o’clock at night or wake up until 8 in the morning. This difference in time is because their circadian rhythm, or “internal clock”, is different from any other age group, making many teens  face chronic lack of sleep throughout their entire school careers. The National Sleep Foundation suggests 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night, but for many high schoolers this is often an unattainable and unrealistic goal. With a constant barrage of tests, projects, extracurriculars and sports, teens barely have the time to finish homework, let alone sleep for a healthy amount of time. On average, students go to bed at 10:40, leaving them the bare minimum time to sleep if school were to start at 8:30. Given that not all schools begin at this hour and some even have classes at 7:00, sleep deprivation has become a public health issue.

Schools with well-rested students have seen an improvement in academic performance and even a decline in tardiness according to the Center for Disease Control. By improving this one widespread problem, the community would also see a reduced risk of car accidents, obesity, and depression. Studies have proven that with an appropriate amount of sleep each night, students achieve higher grades, higher standardized test scores, and an overall better quality of life.  

Waking up before dawn to get to school isn’t the only cause for lack of sleep, but it is among one of the leading factors. Part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, excessive amounts of homework, and of course, technology can be detrimental to teenagers’ sleep. One major contributor to this problem can be easily amended by moving start times to later in the morning. If this is the case, then why aren’t school policies changing after all this evidence against early start times?

Later start times would require students to stay in class until later in the day. One argument made is that it would hurt high school sports teams by leaving them less time for after school practice. Parents also argue that they need teens home earlier in order to take care of younger kids while they’re still at work. With this push back from the administration and parents, schools haven’t seen significant changes since this new research has been published.

Sleep deprivation isn’t seen as a pressing issue since it has become a social norm among students and hasn’t been addressed by parents or the school. It is part of the school’s culture for students to just toughen up or study more if they aren’t successful in class. With hours of sports practice each week and pressure to add extracurriculars for college resumes, students are expected to excel in their courses at the expense of a good night’s sleep. Instead, conditions at schools should change because it would preserve their students’ mental health and allow them to achieve more academically.

 

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/25/u-s-doctors-urge-later-school-start-times-for-teens/?utm_term=.6656c6538d08

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/why-school-should-start-later/401489/

1 Comment

One Response to “Should school start later?”

  1. Piotr Dabrowski on November 16th, 2017 8:54 am

    Great article! I think one thing that was missed, however, is school times often revolve around work schedules. Schools that try to start later often run into problems with parents not being able to drop their kids off that late or conflicting drop-off times for the younger siblings. Hopefully, we can find a solution soon.

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Should school start later?