By Bilaal Kazi
Students have been forced into a cycle of not getting enough sleep on weekdays and being forced to catch up with it on weekends. As a cause of this, students are too sleepy to properly take in information during the day. After years and years of complaints from students about not being able to work due to lack of sleep, scientists finally began to question whether there was any fact behind these claims. Now the facts are in, and the results have proven what students have said for decades: High School should start later.
As adolescents hit puberty, our biological rhythms constantly shift making us feel sleepy later at night and sleep later into the day. Lack of sleep causes students to be more prone to obesity, indulge in a sedentary lifestyle, suffer from symptoms of depression as well as engage in unhealthy and risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs.
A study of 30,000 teenagers showed that moving start times to 8:30 or later improved the average graduation rate by 9%. Another study showed delaying start times by 1 hour, made class averages about 2% higher. This was especially true in students aged 14 or older, an average improvement of nearly 4%. This study also showed the largest improvement was in the students at the lowest third of achievement, meaning this would shrink the achievement gap between the best and worst students.
People often wonder if a lack of sleep is the issue. If so, why don’t teens just sleep earlier?
The answer to this question isn’t as simple as it seems. During puberty, as children change, shifts in the brain’s melatonin content causes teens to need to stay up later into the night. This change usually begins at 13-14 years of age and keeps increasing till it peaks between the ages of 17 and 18.
There is a problem that does arise in delaying high school start times, for example, more traffic as commutes to work, elementary, middle and high school would be at the same time.
However a simple fix to this would be to swap the current start times of elementary and high school. Data suggests that younger students are more awake and ready to learn at early times. Although this may cause problems with child-care to arise as parents may not be able to take care of their children as early in the day. An alternative to this would be to delay current start times as a whole along with elementary timings.
If carried out well, a change in school timings would be very beneficial. Along with a significant increase in grades, this would also greatly reduce stress in students, allowing them more rest. Along with this we would also see a significant decrease of teens with mental disorders, such as anxiety. This would also lead to a marginal increase in school attendance and graduation rates. With little to no cons, an active push for later school times would substantially help society as a whole.