Editorial: Schools Should Have Later Start Times

Emma Russell, Reporter

“Nationwide, 25.4% of students got 8 or more hours of sleep on an average school night,” said the Center for Disease Control (CDC), a United States federal health organization, in a 2017 research study. It is recommended teenagers get eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep every night. Insufficient amounts of sleep lead to many different problems like adverse effects on quality of life.

To resolve this problem, schools should start classes later.

According to the CDC, not getting enough sleep can increase the chances of consuming alcohol, usage of tobacco, other drug habits and risk behaviors, being overweight, decreased academic performance in high school students. The frontal lobe controls behavior and decision making, and lack of sleep further impairs this portion of the brain and is not yet developed in teenage years.

Along with poor decision making capabilities, teenage brains are more likely to develop a greater reliance on drugs. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “Epidemiological evidence suggests that people who begin experimenting with drugs of abuse during early adolescence are more likely to develop substance use disorders.” A developing brain is more likely to become addicted to drugs because the usage and reliance would have started while the brain was still maturing.

Not only can lack of sleep create a drug addiction, it has poor effects on student’s academic performance. The American Academy of Pediatrics, an American children’s organization, said, “An increase in start times by 1 hour would result in a 3 percentile point gain in both math and reading test scores for the average student.” This study proves if school start times were to be pushed back can greatly improve students educational performance.

Allowing students to sleep more each morning before school would also improve the physical health of students. The American Academy of Pedicatracts, a nationally recognized organization that aims to improve the health of children, said, “young drivers aged 25 years or younger are involved in more than one-half of the estimated 100,000 police-reported, fatigue-related traffic crashes each year.” If developing adolescent students started school later, the number of vehicle crashes caused by fatigue may decrease.

“Research to date has shown that the circadian rhythms of adolescents are simply fundamentally different from those of adults and children,” said lead author Gideon Dunster, a University of Washington doctoral student in biology.”

Circadian rhythms are the cycles the human body goes through during sleep and wakefulness. “To ask a teen to be up and alert at 7:30 a.m. is like asking an adult to be active and alert at 5:30 a.m.,” said Luciano de la Iglesia in a separate research study. Children are not capable of functioning properly when they start school each morning.

The issues revolving around lack of sleep in adolescents can be solved. Contact your local school district to delay school start times for students.