Student sleeping in class due to lack of sleep caused by early school start times. Teens need at least 8 hours of sleep, but they can’t because school starts too early. (Photo courtesy of Mariah Kern)
Teenagers are beginning to grow when entering high school, and in order to grow, they need the appropriate amount of sleep. During puberty, teens have a shift in their biological rhythms. The circadian rhythms are what controls sleeping habits, and since they are changing your bedtime has to also change. “These biological changes are often combined with poor sleep habits,” said Doctor Kate Bartel, a researcher in psychology.
“I spend around four hours on homework, and I don’t go to sleep until 12:30 in the morning,” said Nyla Ross, a sophomore. Teenagers need to “sleep 8-10 hours for good health,” according to the American Academy of Sleep and Medicine. With homework and after school activities, some students don’t get the eight hours of sleep they need.
Schools In 46 states have changed school start times to give their students an opportunity for longer and healthier sleep hours, including California. Governor Gavin Newson of California signed legislation on October 13, 2019 to push school start times back. All California high schools will now start no later than 8:00 a.m and middle schools will start no later than 8:30 a.m. The law will take effect on July 1, 2022.
Why Change it
Experts recommend that “schools start at 8:30 a.m,” said Judith Owens, director at the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders. This could help students get the right amount of sleep and perform better in school. Starting school later can make it easier for students to focus in class because their brains will have the appropriate amount of rest. Not getting enough sleep “makes it difficult for brain cells to communicate effectively,” said Samantha Mathewson, a freelance science writer, in an article she wrote and published on Live Science.
Getting the appropriate amount of sleep is also good for your health. While you sleep ”your immune system releases proteins called cytokines,” said Dr. Eric J. Olson, a sleep medicine specialist. These cytokines help your body fight off bacteria, and without them you will become more vulnerable to viruses.
Teenagers are starting to learn how to drive while in high school, and having to wake up early is causing them to drive while sleep-deprived. “Drivers under the age of 25 are involved in at least 50 percent of drowsy driving crashes,” said Talia M. Dunietz, a junior at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If schools start later this average could decrease because teenagers will be well-rested before getting behind the wheel.
Why keep it the same
Starting school later would mean that school would have to end later. For example, middle schools would have to end around 3:00 p.m if their schools start at 8:00 a.m. If high schools were to start at 8:30 a.m they would have to end around 3:30 p.m to get seven hours of school required by the state.
Students that participate in sports would “be ending practice much later because schools would be ending later,” said Nyla Ross. This would cause students to get home later, and still have to do their homework before going to sleep. These students would end up going to bed later than they did when school started at 7:25 a.m.
Wake County would have to change all school start times in the county to avoid the problem of having to buy more school buses. All schools would have to change their start times including the middle schools. Elementary schools would not have to change because they start at 9:15 a.m.
Parents who have kids in middle school might have trouble getting their children to school or the bus stop on time. “Most working parents are required to report to work by 8 a.m,” said Natalie Regoli.Working parents can’t drop their kids off at school if school starts at 8:30 a.m, and parents have to be at work at 8 a.m.
Although changing school start times has positive effects it also negative effects that have to be considered when thinking of making the decision of whether or not to push start times back.