During the mornings in my math class, everyone (even the rowdy ones) are half-asleep and silent. You'd think being silent is a good thing, if we weren't trying to get in a couple more Z's before the teacher catches us! So, what I'm trying to point out is, we need more sleep and going to bed earlier won't cut it! Trust me, I've tried. Our bodies are just so used to shutting down at a certain time (for me it's usually 11:00 PM) that we can't fall asleep until that certain time! So, the only option is to let us wake up later.
An Education Next article shows how just one more hour of sleep for students can make a difference in their grades. This study shows that delaying schools in the morning by one hour causes test scores to go up at least two percentage points in math and one point in reading. The effect is bigger for below-average test scores, which tells us later start times would shorten gaps in student achievement. Many other studies find that early start times result in few hours of sleep because students might not be able to fully make up for early rising times with early bedtimes. Activities outside of school may make it harder for students to adjust their bedtime. More sleep is not the only possible reason later-starting middle-school students have greater test scores. Students that have earlier starting middle-schools are more likely to skip breakfast -which I do EVERYDAY. Also, if they can get out of school earlier, they are able to spend more time studying, doing after-school activities, spend more time with their families, and will be able to spend more time with their friends. They would be less likely to be absent, late, or have problems with their behavior in school! According to the Math Goodies article, teenager's sleep deprivation is believed to have biological causes. There are some scientists that say teenager body clocks start later. Our body clocks are believed to be programmed two hours later than children's, most likely for hormonal reasons, which is why we work better in the afternoon. A recent study found that the biological changes that usually take place during puberty keep kids from being able to go to sleep as early as they did when they were children. Being sleepy during the day makes it harder to learn, focus, and stay awake in school. Not enough sleep can also cause mood swings and problems with behavior. Sleep deprived teens who get behind the wheel are also more likely to cause serious and deadly accidents. In summary, teens aren't getting enough sleep on school nights. Teenager sleep deprivation is powerful enough that it is able to cause growing concern among researchers, schools, and parents. Research has proven that less sleep is affecting teenager's ability to focus in school.
Some studies show that sleep deprivation might have biological causes.In the article, "Impact of School Start Times" it is relayed that later bedtimes for teenagers are understood as a biological response to puberty, the beginning of that which ends in a two-hour sleep-wake phase delay without lowering the total sleep requirements. In conclusion, teens have a biological need to be able to sleep later in the mornings. One school shortened the length of a school day by 30 minutes to avoid logistical issues with after school commitments, taking care of younger siblings, and teachers' schedules. This shows that flexibility with scheduling might be critical for successfully bringing change.
As we all know, High Schools and Middle Schools usually start much earlier in the morning than elementary schools. But, if all school start times were based on sleep cycles, elementary schools would start at 7:30 and middle and high schools at 8:30 or 8:45. Schools systems should be taking the possibility of changing their start times seriously. It will not be easy, but it will increase students' hours of sleep and most likely improve their school performance.
Studies also show that later start times result in better driving and fewer accidents. A study compared car accident statistics in two Virginia cities with school start times that were 75 to 80 minutes apart to determine if there were any obvious differences that could be retraced back to teenagers not getting enough sleep. In the first town, vehicle accidents occurred at a rate of 65.8 per 1000 in 2008 and 71.2 per 1000 in 2007 and it is where 16-18-year-olds attended school at the traditional start time. Accident rates within schools of the same community that began later stood at 46.6 per 1000 in 2008 and 55.6 per 1000 in 2007, presenting a difference that was statistically significant. In 2011, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that sleep deprivation among high and middle school students can also lead to a wide range of health-risk factors including; Lack of exercise, Poor diet, Use of computers for three or more hours each day, Physical fighting, Cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use, Sexual activity, Severe depression, and Suicidal tendencies.
I hope you will make a later school starting time a priority policy for the sake of teenagers’ health and ability to focus in class, as well as younger siblings getting up when they don’t have to. Thank you for your time.
Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy
Edwards, Finley. "Do Schools Begin Too Early?" Education Next, vol. 12, no. 03, educationnext.org/do-schools-begin-too-early/. Accessed 8 Sept. 2016.
Glosser, Gisele. "Teens, Sleep, and School." Math Goodies, www.mathgoodies.com/ articles/teens_sleep.html. Accessed 15 Sept. 2016.
"Impact of School Start Times." PDF, www.shorewood.k12.wi.us/uploaded/ Family_Resources/general/Impact_of_School_Start_Time.pdf. Accessed 14 Sept.2016.