It is 6:00 A.M. Sarah is sleeping cozily in her bed when her alarm jerks her awake. She groans, knowing she must get up or she will be late for school, which starts at 7:00 A.M. She is incredibly tired and sleepy, so she is not able to pay attention in school. She fails her science test because she is too tired to concentrate. After her soccer practice, she gets started on her other work, which takes her until 11:00 P. M. to finish. Finally, she can go to bed. But Sarah knows she has to get up early the next day and will not get enough sleep. This cycle continues to repeat every day, and not just for Sarah. Teens everywhere are currently experiencing the effects of early school start times. This is simply not good, and school start times are to blame. Since 2014, 8:30 a.m. or later has been the recommended high school start time by the American Academy of Pediatrics (Crist). But most schools across America have largely ignored this. Teenagers are forced to wake up and go to school when their bodies are anything but fit for that. Many of them are dangerously sleep deprived. Some do not eat breakfast. These issues will affect their academic performance. Children truly are the future, but how can they succeed if this problem persists? If school start times could be changed, it will really help teens in numerous ways. Although they may create less time for extracurriculars, starting school later leads to teens getting more sleep, more time to eat a healthy breakfast, and teens having a better academic performance.
If school start times are postponed, teens will be able to get more sleep. Parents have noticed “that 60 percent of children under the age of 18 complain of being tired during the school day; 15 percent admitted to actually falling asleep at school” (“Should Schools”). If over half of America’s teens are suffering from sleep deprivation, it is imperative something must be done because at this age, sleep is vital for good health. When ample sleep is not received on a daily basis, chronic sleep deprivation occurs. Unfortunately, this problem cannot be solved by having teens go to bed early. Teenage phase shift is an issue that many teenagers experience, where their growing bodies do not create more melatonin, which causes them to not feel tired until much later in the night-- usually after midnight. Since school start times for teens are not compatible with teenage phase shift, they become exhausted the rest of the day, but cannot sleep at night (Romanek 15). Simply sleeping earlier is not a solution. If school start times for students who experience this were altered to fit their sleep cycles in a better way, it would benefit teens and allow them to get their sleep. If school start times continue to stay the same, even more teens will begin to go through chronic sleep deprivation, which can have serious consequences. Moodiness, concentration difficulties, poor decision making, memory impairment, and reduced academic and sporting performance are just some of the effects of sleep deprivation ("Teenagers and Sleep"). There is already a huge number of teens who suffer from these issues. If nothing is changed, gradually more and more students will become subject to problems like these. It is important to recognize how crucial it is to make sure teens receive a good amount of sleep each night. Sleep is incredibly important for teens, and it is not right that they miss out on it as it may cause many problems for them and affect them in numerous ways.
In addition, later school start times will allow teens more time to eat a healthy breakfast. Up to thirty percent of kids regularly skip breakfast by the time they are teenagers ("Case for Eating Breakfast"). If this many kids are doing this, there must be a reason. A big factor in skipping breakfast is that many students simply lack the time needed to eat a healthy breakfast, which can lead to serious repercussions. Studies show “that those who skip breakfast have an intake of calcium and vitamin C that is 40 percent lower and an iron intake that is 10 percent lower than those who eat breakfast” (Brody). Skipping the meal can have negative results such as these and can begin to create long-term issues for students who do not have time to eat breakfast due to early start times. Research shows “many older teens are busy until late into the night with homework, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs. They go to bed late, then get up and rush off to school, too frantic to eat” (“Case for Eating Breakfast”). This ties back into the problem of sleep. Waking up early and not getting enough sleep is causing many students to skip breakfast, as many of them would rather sleep more than wake up to eat. Many of them are too rushed to have a balanced meal. Students are also up late doing work and therefore miss out on breakfast. Current school start times do not give students enough time to enjoy a nutritious breakfast, causing them to miss out on an essential part of their diet.
When later start times are implemented, students' academic performance will improve. Much research has been done on this, including “a study of roughly 1,000 children and preadolescents, [where] researchers measured kids' sleep and school performance and found that poor sleepers (who had difficulty falling asleep and woke up at least once a night) were significantly more likely to have school achievement difficulties. In fact, one of the best predictors of school failure in the study was children's fatigue (being difficult to arouse in the morning and falling asleep during the day)” (“Improve”). Even for pre-teens, sleep is obviously an important factor in school performance. Imagine how much of an effect it has on teens. If school started later, kids would receive more sleep which would result in them performing much better academically. An improvement in students’ grades can cause other rates to go up as well. In a recent study conducted by Pamela McKeever and Linda Clark from Central Connecticut State University, it was discovered that when high school start times were pushed back to 8:30, graduation and attendance rates increased considerably. McKeever commented, “As graduation rates improve, young adults experience less hardship after graduation, a lower chance of incarceration and a higher chance of career success,” (Malatesta). As proven by this study, school start times have an effect on many things. Higher graduation and attendance rates will lead to more students attending college and going into successful careers as young men and women. Even though it may seem like a small change to make, school start times can have a big role in accomplishing this. Graduation and attendance rates are important statistics that school start times can have a drastic effect on. A study published in Sleep Health, a journal founded by the National Sleep Foundation, looks at thirty thousand students across seven states in twenty nine high schools. A delayed start time at these schools caused attendance rates to go up to ninety four percent from ninety percent and graduation rates to increase from seventy nine to eighty eight percent (Crist). When these rates go up, students are able to learn and achieve more, since they will be coming to school more and are graduating. Most stable jobs require at least a high school diploma and by changing school start times, more people will be able to get at least to this level. Being at school more often also benefits students because it allows them to learn more and their academic performance will improve. Modifying school start times will lead to an increase in students’ academic performance.
Even though they may result in less time spent on after school activities, introducing later school start times will give teens more time to sleep and eat a balanced breakfast, and also improve their academic performance. It is important to remember how much of an impact these simple things can have. When new start times are put into place, they cause positive outcomes for everyone involved-- parents, students, and even teachers and faculty can benefit from this change. Tons of organizations out there are dedicated to this cause and all that’s needed to change this is support for ending this issue. So the next time you wake up in the morning feeling so tired you just cannot get up, think about how this is routine for teens everywhere, and it is up to us to change this.
Better Health Channel. May 2018, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/teenagers-and-sleep. Accessed 4 Dec. 2018.
Brody, Jane E. "PERSONAL HEALTH; People Who Skip Breakfast Pay a High Price." The New York Times, 6 Oct. 1998. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A150134530/OVIC?u=wamslib&sid=OVIC&xid=737b084a. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
"The Case for Eating Breakfast." Healthy Children, AAP, 13 Feb. 2012, www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/The-Case-for-Eating-Breakfast.aspx. Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.
Crist, Carolyn. "Later School Start Times Catch on Nationwide." District Administration, vol. 53, no. 4, Apr. 2017, p. 24. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A490936968/OVIC?u=wamslib&sid=OVIC&xid=bb3674e2. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.
"Improve Your Child's School Performance With A Good Night's Sleep." National Sleep Foundation, 2018, www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/improve-your-childs-school-performance-good-nights-sleep.
Malatesta, Elizabeth. "Let Them Sleep? Later School Start Times Improve Graduation and Attendance Rates." National Education Association, 13 Apr. 2018, neatoday.org/2017/04/13/later-school-start-times/. Accessed 6 Dec. 2018.
Romanek, Trudee. Zzz... Illustrated by Rose Cowles, Kids Can Press, 2002.
"Should Schools Start Later in the Day?" Current Events, a Weekly Reader Publication, vol. 98, no. 25, 30 Apr. 1999, p. 1S1. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A54561269/OVIC?u=wamslib&sid=OVIC&xid=3746ca7a. Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.