What starting time for school will benefit students the most academically, mentally and physically?
How the starting time for schools impacts students:
A study done by Science Advances shows that school starting later lets teenagers sleep more which improves student’s physical and mental health, attendance and academic performance. Teenagers should be getting more than nine hours of sleep but most are getting six hours and 50 minutes. Teenagers also can’t produce melatonin which is the hormone that induces sleep until later in the night so going to sleep earlier doesn’t solve the problem. Two schools in Seattle (Franklin High and Roosevelt High) changed the starting bell from 7:50 to 8:45. Students on average gained 34 minutes of sleep and final grades were increased by 4.5 percent. Teachers noticed that students were more awake and engaged in morning classes and had an easier time thinking critically. It took nearly 5 years to convince the school board to start later because with starting later, school also ends later and parents were concerned with their children walking alone in the dark. (1) Society often views sleep as a luxury, not for ambitious and active people but sleep is a biological necessity. The reason for why students aren’t getting enough sleep consists of after school activities, jobs, homework, family obligations and early school start times. Sleep deprivation can lead to many problems such as impairing ability to be alert, pay attention, solve problems, deal with stress and retain information. It heightens the risk of drowsy driving, irritability, depression, poor impulse control, violents, health complaints, consumption of alcohol, consumption of tobacco and can lower performance in academics as well as athletics. Most teenagers go through a phase where they fall asleep and wake up later than usual. Research shows that the natural time for teenagers to fall asleep can be 11pm or later. (2) Everyone can play an important role to help teenagers. Parents can set a regular bedtime and wake time including on the weekend, dim the lighting and have a media curfew. (3)
1:“Here’s What Happens When School Starts Later.” <i>NEA Today</i>, 1 Mar. 2019, neatoday.org/2019/02/27/what-happens-when-schools-start-later/.
2:“Later School Start Times: Benefits & Cons.” National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/backgrounder-later-school-start-times.
3:“Schools Start Too Early.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/features/school-start-times/index.html.
Sleep schedules and how school’s start time affects them have never really been a point of interest or research for me, but your research has definitely interested me. I’ve heard opposite arguments: some saying (as you and these studies are) that a later school start time is more beneficial for the students, and on the flip side others saying that a later start time would just lead to a later bedtime, and basically just shift everyone’s schedules an hour or two later. I think you could probably find studies that support either side and other arguments I haven’t heard, so maybe you could look in more depth into some opposing views.
As you are well aware, I personally don’t manage my time well, and almost never get enough sleep. I’ve found that even if I go to bed way later than usual, but get the same amount of sleep as though I had gone to bed earlier I feel better rested, at least in the morning. So shifting the start time would probably be worth it.
I found it interesting that you mentioned that a teenager’s natural time to fall asleep is eleven o’clock or later. I wonder if that’s because of how our society sets up schedules or if it’s a biological instinct. I think that could be an interesting point of research, especially if you elaborated on the issue of melatonin production, and how it affects when teenagers fall asleep.
Other than Franklin High and Roosevelt High, have any other schools altered their start time? How did that affect them?
Do you have any other suggestions to help teenagers get more sleep than only starting school later?
I don’t know what else you’ve already looked into, or what other sources you have, but I found a few that you might be able to use:
I’m looking forward to reading your next posts and seeing where your research takes you.
An end note:
I just realized how long my comment is, and I apologize.
I really enjoyed reading your research and I think your question is quite an interesting one. You always hear students saying that they wished school started later so that they could sleep a little more and be a little less tired in the morning. But on the flip side, you normally hear parents and other adults saying the opposite; that schools should start early and that kids shouldn’t be let to sleep in for too long, because that makes them lazy. It was eye opening to see that it took an astounding five years to push some schools’ starting times to a reasonable time and I think most school districts should be pushing for later start times; simply in the interest of students’ health. Not all students can go to sleep at the optimal time and they should be given a little more time to recharge so that they can achieve more in academics and extra curricular activities.