Most schools around the country start too early for kids to get proper sleep which is causing serious detrimental problems. Both physical and mental health are affected by sleep, or lack thereof, but despite this almost all high schools start before the recommended time. If high schools started at the right time it would improve student health, grades, and overall well being. The few schools that start at the recommended time have shown proof of this, though other schools have still yet to follow their lead. Several major health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the CDC, have all stated that high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 A.
M. (Wahlstrom3) However, more than 90% of high schools do not follow this guideline. (Gilpin1) The average start time of american public schools is 7:59 A.M.(“Wake Up Calls”6) Starting before this guideline does not allow teenage high school students to get on a proper sleep schedule. Students not being able to wake up early is a matter of biology.
(Wahlstrom3) Certain mechanisms in the teenage brain do not allow students to have a natural awakening before 8 A.M. (Wahlstrom3) During puberty nearly all mammals, including humans, have a delay in the secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin, causing it to secrete from about 10:45 P.
M until 8:00 A.M. (Wahlstrom3) This means that teens generally do not start getting tired until around 10:45 P.M and stay tired until about 8:00 A.M.
These sleep habits are different from those of children and adults which is why they tend to be able to rise earlier than teenagers. (Wahlstrom3) The most common problem of this improper sleep schedule for teens is sleep deprivation. The sleep deprivation in students has been a major topic of debate for almost two decades. Teenagers just weren’t made for early rising. These changes in their sleeping pattern is beyond teen control and going to bed earlier isn’t a solution. (Wahlstrom3) The absolute earliest healthy time teens should wake up should not be before 7 A.M. (MacMillan5) According to the CDC almost 70% of high school students get an average of seven hours of sleep or less per night.
(MacMillan5) This is two hours less than health organizations recommend which contributes to teenage sleep deprivation.People think that if schools started later then teenagers would just go to bed later causing them to get no extra sleep. This is simply not true. When allowed to sleep in later in the morning, students would still go to bed at the same time which increases their total hours of rest.
(Gilpin1) California congresswoman Zoe Lofgren has said “Over time, Sleep deprivation leads to serious consequences for academic achievement, social behavior, and the health and safety of our nation’s youth.” (“School Start Time”4) Chronic sleep loss in teens contributes poorer performance in school, and leads to a higher risk for depression, obesity, cardiovascular problems, risk-taking behaviors, and athletic injury. (MacMillan5) Depression significantly rises when teens get less than nine hours of sleep. (Wahlstrom3) When only sleeping four hours or less per night, feelings of sadness and hopelessness increases from 19% to 52%.
(Wahlstrom3) Getting less than eight hours of sleep is the strongest predictor of injuries in student athletes. (Lewis2) Sleep deprived teens also have a higher chance of participating in violent and property crimes than other teenagers. (“Wake Up Calls”6) Sleep deprivation is also a major contribution to teen car crashes. 1 in 10 teenagers have reported falling asleep while driving. (“Wake Up Calls”6) Teens and young adults are involved in over half of all drowsy driving accidents in a year.
(Lewis2) The National Heart, Lung and Blood institute recommend that teens get nine to ten hours of sleep every night. (Gilpin1) When this sleeping standard is met car wrecks caused by teens significantly declines. (Wahlstrom3) The teenage crash rate in Jackson Hole, Wyoming dropped by 70% in the first year of switching to a later start.(Wahlstrom3) Results from schools whose start time follows the guideline showed not only a rise in academic performance, but also a decline in the use of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol.
(Wahlstrom3) A noticeable rise in testing scores also increases. A Colby College economist, Finley Edwards, found that when schools start even an hour later math and reading scores increased by an average of three percentile points. (Lewis2) A later school start would also have financial benefits along with the student’s benefits. (Lewis2) Minor injury costs have been estimated to cost up to nearly one million dollars a year in medical costs. Some of these costs could be prevented by simply getting a good night’s rest, as student athletes are less likely to get injured when they are well rested.
(Lewis2) Megan Reilly, Chief Financial Officer for the Los Angeles Unified school district, estimated that rise in attendance that would be brought from having a later start time would earn her district an extra forty million dollars a year. (Lewis2) Sleep deprived teens contribute to what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls the “extreme danger” of drowsy driving which costs an estimated 109 billion dollars a year. (Lewis2) If all schools followed the starting guideline then this cost could be lowered dramatically.
In conclusion, starting high schools later would have massive benefits for everyone involved. From health benefits for teens to financial benefits to parents and administrators, a later start would overall improve the schools systems. A few schools have already shown these improvements, but not enough to improve the average quality of life for teenagers around the country.
If more schools followed their lead this would cause even more to follow until eventually an 8:30 A.M. starting time was as standard in every school around the country.