School Time

Students Would Benefit From Later Day

Across the nation, schools have been turning away from the status quo of early school hours in favor of a 10 a.m. first bell. This change in education stems from new studies over the circadian rhythm of youth in high school and college. It is because of this research that the starting time for high schools should be moved to 10 a.m.

The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as the sleep/wake cycle. Typical sleep cycles begin around 11 p.m. for teenagers and continues through 8 a.m. This means that an early wake-up for school at around 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning not only allows six or seven hours of sleep per school night at most but also requires students to wake up in the middle of deep sleep. According to most sleep experts, most adolescents need about nine hours of sleep per night. Today, nearly 2/3 of teens get under eight, and 2/5 get under six hours of sleep per night. Parents who struggle to rouse their sleepy teens for an early morning class understand how grumpy their children can before 10:00. If classes were moved to a later time in the day, students would be able to get more meaningful sleep.

Another scientific study shows behavior problems in the classroom decrease if students start school later in the day. Teens at a New York high school were more punctual and received fewer disciplinary actions after their starting bell was delayed by 41 minutes.

School hours have also been shown to have effects on students’ health. Young people who do not get enough sleep night after night carry a significant risk for drowsy driving, emotional and behavioral problems such as irritability, depression, poor impulse control and violence, health complaints, tobacco and alcohol use, impaired cognitive function and decision-making.

While many could say that changing school times would complicate students’ ability to participate in extracurricular activities, it is imperative the student performs to their highest potential  in class first before focus can then be directed towards other activities. 

Studies have found an inverse relationship between sleep and academic performance in children, adolescents, and young adults at every educational level. This is because sleep loss is associated with brief mental lapses in attention during simple tasks that then require increases effort and motivation. Tiredness and fatigue, however, tend to diminish motivation, particularly for tasks perceived as boring or tedious. Sleep deprivation can sometimes mimic or exacerbate symptoms of ADHD including impulsiveness and difficulty with paying attention. It would be more beneficial and productive if the school hours were pushed from 8 a.m. to a reasonable 10 a.m.