Students tend to still be in a daze from their deep sleep when they arrive at school in the morning. Secondary schools that start before 8:30 am should start at a later time to allow students’ minds to wake up and be ready to learn for their morning classes.
No one likes waking up to the screeching sound of an alarm clock going off in their ear, especially when they are expecting a long, stressful day ahead of them. Although sleep is viewed as a luxury that ambitious or active people cannot afford, research shows sleep is a biological necessity, and is a key component to a healthy life.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, adolescents and preteens need on average 8.5-9.5 hours of nightly sleep. The federal Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC) conducted a survey that found 69% of high school students get fewer than eight hours of sleep on school nights, and 40% of students get six or fewer hours. With everything students are urged to get involved in such as extra-curriculum activities, homework, work, or other activities, it is no surprise that students are being left sleep deprived.
Shifting school start times to a later start time would allow students to thrive both physically and academically because of being able to catch some more ‘z’s’. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools should start classes no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for a majority of students, if not all, to acquire the recommended nightly sleep time.
I conducted a poll at my own school, Central Dauphin High School, on how many hours of sleep students get each night. Of the 150 students I asked, only 37% of students get between six and seven hours of sleep, and 51% get even less than that. That means only 12% of students are getting over seven hours of nightly sleep, which if it is only seven, is still below the recommended amount of sleep needed for mental and physical health.
Adolescents have unique sleep rhythms that makes it harder for them to fall asleep and wake up earlier than other people. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the production of melatonin, which is the body’s sleep hormone, occurs later at night during puberty. This makes it more difficult for teens to fall asleep before 11pm and wake up before 8am.
“Getting enough sleep is important for students’ health, safety, and academic performance,” Anne Wheaton, the lead author and epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Population Health, stated.
Lack of sleep can cause an abounding amount of disorders and issues. Both the CDC and pediatricians’ group found significant risks from sleep deprivation, including higher rates of obesity and depression, and even higher rates of motor-vehicle accidents among teens.
Over half of teens that have licences (56%) admit to have driven despite feeling tired and feeling unable to drive their best. As if that’s not enough for our government to see change is needed, nearly one in ten teenagers admit to have fallen completely asleep behind the wheel, a study says conducted by SADD and Liberty Mutual in 2016.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 9,000 students from eight different high schools across the nation and found that shifting school start times to later in the morning had an extremely positive effect. They saw a significant boost in attendance, test scores, and grades for core courses. A decrease in tardiness, substance abuse, and symptoms of depression were also found in these schools after the shift.
It is not just the start time of school that causes students to feel sleep deprived, it is the early morning. Some students have to catch the bus before it’s even 6am. So by the time they arrive at school they have already been awake for at least two hours.
Moving school start times back later in the morning would benefit the student body in its entirety, and make school days less stressful for everyone in the school. Seeing how it has positively affected other schools across the nation should be more than enough motivation for our government to make the changes needed to see more adolescents prosper and succeed.