There is a remarkable amount of scientific proof that high schools and middle schools must implement later start times in order for students to get enough sleep. The majority of experts have agreed that teenagers need nine and a half hours of sleep to function properly, yet more than two-thirds of students get less than eight hours, and two-fifths get under six hours of sleep. This has created a huge health concern that seriously needs to be addressed and resolved. Despite this, it was pointed out by Virginia Foxx, a representative of North Carolina’s 5th District in the U.S. States House of Representatives and chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, that, “We have ignored that research for the convenience of the adults.” When developing adolescents fail to get sufficient sleep, the only solution is to push back high school and middle school start times to at least eight thirty in the morning. It is imperative that adults realize that teenagers have a completely different circadian rhythm, or internal clock, than adults and younger children. Typically, teenagers don’t release melatonin until about eleven o'clock at night, which explains why it seems nearly impossible for them to fall asleep at a “reasonable” time. Due to this shift, teens can’t get the recommended amount sleep that is vital for them to develop and grow because they fall asleep late at night and wake up way too early. Several studies have proven that insufficient amount of sleep negatively affects students’ well-being, which then affects academic life and surrounding communities.
Some of the physical and mental effects of insufficient sleep include irritability, cognitive impairment, memory lapses, impaired moral judgement, hallucinations, symptoms similar to ADHD, impaired immune system, increased heart rate variability, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of diabetes (type two), increased reaction time, decreased accuracy, tremors, aches, growth suppression, and increased risk of obesity. It would take a long time to go through each of those individual issues on the list of how those things affect the student’s life, both at school and at home. Chair and Founder of Start School Later Incorporation once commented, “One hour less of weekday sleep is associated with significantly greater odds of suicide attempts and seriously considering suicide.” It is imperative for everyone to realize how great of an physical and mental impact sleep has on teenagers. If schools simply pushed start times back, the well-being of teenagers would not be put at risk.
Moreover, teenagers that get little sleep affect several academic aspects. Virginia Foxx said, “We’ve known for a long time that adolescents do a very poor job early in the morning.” Because learning ability, cognitive performance, memory, attention, ability to manage time, and decision making skills are all influenced by the hours of sleep a student gets, everything that occurs in the classroom is impacted. Early start times leave students falling asleep during morning classes, which only results in teachers spending a significant amount of time pestering kids that are trying to catch up on their sleep. This decreases the amount of instruction performed in class and distracts and other students. When students’ grades begin to lower, teachers become concerned. When this factor is combined with the research showing that early start times result in lower grades, lower standardized test scores, and a drop in attendance, teachers need additional time to teach, which happens to be the very time that was wasted when resolving issues with the tired students. In the long run, this results in lower graduation rates. Assuming that a school district shifted the high school and middle school schedules, there would be a positive increase of academic performance.
Furthermore, the amount of sleep a student gets affects communities. In high school, when juniors and seniors are driving to school early in the morning, not getting enough sleep the night before means tired students, all being relatively inexperienced drivers. Groggy students that drive around in the dark result in accidents, especially in the winter. Cecilia Peacock, who works in the United States Public Health Service, said, “Car crashes decrease up to 70% with just one hour in a shift in the bell start times.” This statement confirms that when students get more sleep, they are more alert and can focus on driving, especially if they’re making their commute in the dark. Furthermore, while parents are at a lower risk of dozing off and losing their attention, it is still possible for them to be involved in car accidents when driving children to school in the morning. If schools implemented a later start time and students got enough sleep, there would definitely be a decrease in car accidents.
Despite all of the evidence that shows why schools should implement later start times, some people believe that the start time should not change. One of the main concerns people have about starting late start times is the fact that more money will have to be spent on busing and of course, on the incentives that would be given by the government. Unfortunately, not many people take pleasure in paying taxes, but in the long run, the investment would pay off. Additionally, some people do point something out. If we push start times back, we push back the end times. No one can argue with that, unless someone proposed shortening the school days. Even if that was suggested, it wouldn’t go over well. Consequently, if the start and end times were both pushed back, the new schedule would interfere with extracurriculars and jobs. Coaches would struggle with scheduling practices and games. Managers would be forced to turn down students if they refused to work late hours. Moreover, family life would be different. Parents would have to arrange for babysitters or daycares because they depend on older children to take care of younger siblings when the return home. Family dinners would be later and there wouldn’t be a lot of time for family interaction, assuming the parents and younger children went to bed before the teenagers. Really, it’s just the logistics that people are worried about. But after a while, the bumps would be smoothed out, and the students, schools, and community would reap the benefits of having later start times.
Instead of forcing all schools to make the switch, the change should still remain optional, which maintains some freedom and keep complaints to a minimum. How then should school districts be encouraged to change the schedules of high schools and middle schools? The government could provide monetary incentives for districts that accepted a policy of starting high school and middle school classes after eight thirty in the morning. This solution, being a more liberal stance, would encourage school districts to prioritize the physical and mental health of students, the safety of the community, and the improvement of academic performance over saving money for other causes and less hassle with logistical matters that would eventually be solved. But really, should the health and education of teenagers even be sacrificed instead of the government investing in creating a healthy workforce that will inherit the current one?
SEE ALSO: circadian rhythms jk think i mentioned those somewhere in there