Joey S. Michigan

Letter to The Next President

School Start Time

Joey Steger

School start Time

Dear future President,

The amount of sleep that adolescents get while attending school is drastically lower than it should be. If nothing is done to help increase the amount of sleep that they get, they will not be able to reach their full potential and keep our nation moving forward. This has been an ongoing problem that impacts kids of all ages who attend school and the worst part about it is that not everyone knows the importance of sleep and how much of an impact it has on the human body. Some of the many consequences that lack of sleep has on a person can range from having baggy eyes in the morning to falling asleep behind the wheel. Which not only puts you in danger, but also everyone around you in danger. Every year, drowsiness and falling asleep at the wheel result in more than 100,000 car crashes. Just Imagine, how many lives could be saved if everyone got the recommend amount of sleep. School start time can contribute to this sleep deprivation problem.

Researchers have reported that the average amount of sleep that an adolescent needs is about 8.5-9.5 hours each night. An eye opening study, in the city of Fairfax, VA, revealed that only 6% of teens in the 10th grade and 3% of teens in the 12th grade got the recommended amount of sleep. Nowadays it has become so common that ⅔ teens are seriously sleep deprived. A vast number of these teens are losing 1-2 hours of sleep every night. All of these kids also had a false belief that if sleep was not acquired during the week then they could just make up for it on the weekend. However, a recent Harvard Medical School study states that this is not the case and that you can't “make up” lost sleep in that manner. Furthermore, adolescents have decreased cognitive skills, lower attention spans, and a reduced ability to take in new information which all contributes to not doing as well as they could in school.

There are many reasons why kids do not get enough sleep, but most of them relate to what time school starts. When a child reaches puberty he/she experiences a change in their circadian rhythm. This means that his/her sleep-wake cycle can shift as much as two hours making it extremely difficult for them to be able to get the recommended amount of sleep and still make it to school on time. In Minnesota, 9,000 students at public high schools revealed that starting school a half-hour later gave the students extra sleep per night. The students were seen to have an increase in grade point averages and test scores. Dr. Judith A. Owens, a pediatric sleep specialist from Children’s National Health System, stated that, “When the students were more alert, they were able to get their work done faster and thus get to bed earlier.”

In addition to the change in circadian rhythm, adolescents have another huge distraction with electronics. Most of these include smartphones, iPods, iPads, computers and television. Even things as little as twitter feeds, a stream of text messages, and snapchatting can keeps kids up for hours late at night. The light that comes from your phone's screen also decreases the total amount of the hormone, melatonin, you produce from the brain's pineal gland that signals sleep. Also, students in high school generally seek employment or participate in sports after school. That along with homework keeps kids in this age bracket up later on weeknights.

In conclusion, a later school start time would ensure that kids get additional sleep on weekdays and will ensure that students will do better in school. I know personally that sleep is an absolute necessity when having to wake up at 6a.m every morning. Along with sports, homework, and family time, it is very difficult to get to bed at a decent time and get the necessary amount of sleep needed to perform well the next day. The only way to get kids the recommended amount of sleep they need would be to later school start times.

Sincerely, Joey Steger

MLA Citation

Source 1: Denisco, Alison. “Push for more sleep for highschoolers intensifies.” District Administration Feb. 2014:16. Academic OneFile. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.

Source 2: Pearce, Francine. “pearce -ings: Sleep matters.” Pediatric News July 2015: 22t. Academic OneFile. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Source 3: “Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers.” web log post. N.P. n.d. Web.