School Times Must Start Later

Teenagers are notorious for not getting enough sleep. Averaging only six to seven hours per night, studies suggest that they should actually be getting nine to ten hours a sleep each night. Causes of sleep deprivation include the circadian biological clock of teens to environmental changes. After puberty, there is a biological shift in an adolescent’s internal clock of about two hours; a teenager who used to fall asleep easily at 9:00 pm will prefer a sleep zone beginning around 11:00 pm. Besides the biological factors, many teenagers are inundated with homework every night, sports, after school activities, and socializing, leading to later bedtimes. Since it is commonplace for teenagers to go to bed at 11:00 pm or later, starting school as early as 7:00 am is  ill-advised. Later start times will help ensure better overall performance and engagement for teens.

Teenagers very rarely reach the recommended nine hours of sleep; thus, sleep deprivation impacts many teenagers’ lives, affecting physical and mental performance. Several studies from the University of Harvard indicate that high school students are among the most sleep-deprived groups, despite being the group that needs sleep the most for physical development. As a result of this deprivation, many aspects of personality and functioning will be altered. A lack of sleep may cause teenagers to be moody, irritable, and cranky. In addition, they will have far more difficulty regulating their moods, causing them to get frustrated or upset more easily (which is not a productive attitude for school or work). An inadequate amount of sleep will result in problems with attention, memory, decision making, reaction time, and creativity, which are all cognitive abilities required in school. Furthermore, studies from the University of Havard show that teenagers who get less sleep are more likely to get poor grades in school, fall asleep during class, and have more frequent tardiness or absences. Due to the terrible results of sleep deprivation, knowing that teenagers will get more sleep with a later start time for school, it is ludicrous to maintain early start times.

This claim can be supported by the various studies conducted by the University of Minnesota. These studies demonstrate that schools with later start times showed significant improvements in school performance. School districts that experimented with a later start time found that students coped with academic workloads much better! Even a study that included 9,000 high school students found that test scores, grades, and overall performance improved greatly when start times were switched to later hours. In addition, this study proved that the earlier start times can be associated with mental health issues. When given an  additional hour of sleep, 28% of students said that they felt less sad, depressed or anxious. This study also found that later start times reduced tardiness, absences, and dropout rates among students. When students were able to sleep adequately, they were far less tired in the morning, and more enthusiastic about attending school.

Given the overwhelming empirical evidence that getting adequate sleep and adjusting school schedules to coincide with the natural sleep patterns of teens improves their moods and attitudes, overall mental health, as well as academic performance, later start times should be strongly considered as a means to better meet the needs of hard-working students.


– Maggie Di Sanza

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