Brian G. Michigan

Letter to the President

Later School start times should be enforced.

 All across America school start times have been starting earlier and earlier. By the time students reach high school they're starting as early as 7:00 am. Many students and parents are heated about this issue. The early start times at high schools can be linked to deficient sleep patterns and depression among adolescents.

To start, many students who must undergo the brutal early wake up time for school also suffer from severe and deficient sleep patterns. “Adolescents ‘internal clocks’ – the circadian rhythm's that control a humans responses to stimuli and determine sleep patterns – operate differently than those of other age groups.”. This being said, children have a harder time falling asleep early in the evening compared to other age groups, this becomes a problem when children try to go to bed early but find they can't. The American Academy of Pediatrics “recommends that adolescents get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.”. With an average start time of 7:30 AM, students must go to bed around 9:30 PM, in order to get a full 9 ½ hours of sleep and an hour to get ready in the morning. Considering school activities, eating dinner, and doing homework, achieving this bedtime can be next to impossible for many. This creates a huge sleep deficiency among children. Furthermore, this deficiency not only makes children tired and less focused during school, they can also be more susceptible to sickness. M.D. Eric J. Olson states, “Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick”. It’s crucial to consider the health consequences children face when they are sleep deficient, which leads to greater susceptibility to viruses and in turn compromises their education.

Next, a common argument parents make against pushing back school start times is, “How can I drop my child off at 9 if I have to be at the office by 8:30?” while this is a fair point to consider, I have mixed feelings on this because pushing back school start times can hugely impact adults and their own schedules. On the other hand, shouldn't we as a society make it a priority to ensure the future generation is set up for success in every way possible?

This brings us to the subject of extra curricular activities; if students are already lacking sleep, go to school all day, and then participate in extra curricular activities, how can we expect them to not be even slightly burned out by the end of each day? The expectation we have for students to be involved in as many possible advanced classes, extra curricular activities, and volunteering opportunities is unreasonable if we also expect them fight against their body’s natural circadian rhythms every morning to do all these things. This is yet another example of how we need to start making our education system more student-centered. After all, they are the ones who are representing our schools, our state, and our country. We can start by making sure our students get enough sleep to excel during the day. Although it may not be entirely the school to blame, it's an important place to start.

Lastly, lack of sleep caused by early high school start times can cause depression among students. This quickly becomes a serious and grave problem. The American Academy of pediatrics states, “adolescents who go to sleep at midnight or later are also more likely to suffer from depression and have suicidal thoughts.”. Midnight seems late, but can be unavoidable in some cases for students who participate in sports, hobbies and who have heavy workloads. Thus, this can be dangerous to the student and their grades and result in them feeling “burned out”. This is especially concerning because depression can manifest itself in many harmful ways. While this issue is one of the more severe consequences of early start times, it’s important to take into consideration, “suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24” and “approximately 20 percent of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood”. The most simple solution to combating depression amongst students is to push back school start times. This may not completely solve the problem but it's an excellent place to start.

In conclusion, we need to implement later high school start times all across America. This paper illustrates the many cons of starting school early such as deficient sleep patterns, increased risk of sickness, feeling "burned out", and depression among adolescents while also taking into consideration the arguments in favor of having an early start time. Ultimately, our society should become more conscious of our students’ well being because they are the future of America, and setting them up for success is our responsibility.