Big Questions: Does School Start Too Early?
November 2, 2018
BIG QUESTIONS – Our staff of student writers will be taking you on a deep dive into exploring the questions that surround and heavily impact our experiences as students. For this installment, we ask the question of whether early start times are healthy and the best for high school students.
Recently, California passed a law (which was later vetoed by their governor) that schools couldn’t start until after 8:30. They did this because a majority of people believe that teens sleep cycles are interrupted because of how early they are forced to get up due to school. Most people say that sleep is an important part of their everyday functioning. Not getting enough sleep can easily lead to fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and just an overall bad feeling. Since all of this is true, why does school start so early?
According to the 2014 School Health Policies and Practices Study, 93% of high schools and 83% of middle schools in the U.S. started before 8:30 a.m. Ask yourself, what do you do in your daily life? Balancing work, school, sports, family, friends, and having time for yourself is hard enough. Now, add getting enough sleep to that. The average adult needs about 7-9 hours of sleep. Teenagers and children need even more. Students usually wake up for school around 6:30 am and get out of school around 2:30. Then, let’s say you play sports. That’s another 2 hours! Let’s say you also have a job, that’s another few hours and you have about 3 classes of homework. You can’t forget to save time to eat dinner, shower, and socialize with friends, family and have time for yourself. At last, you have to go to bed at a decent time. Realistically, all of this is impossible without damaging your mental health.
So how bad can not getting enough sleep really be? There are a lot of factors that go into not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, disinterest in engaging in daily activities, or depression, engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, eating unhealthy, drinking, ext, and performing poorly in school. Sleep is the time where your mind and body rejuvenates and gets the rest it needs. It’s the same thing as taking care of a pet. You wouldn’t keep it up all night and make it physically and mentally unhealthy. You would let it go to sleep and get the rest needed. It’s the same thing with you getting enough sleep. According to an article about adolescent sleep patterns published by the sleep health provider Sleep Med, “During puberty, adolescents become sleepy later at night and need to sleep later in the morning as a result in shifts in biological rhythms.”
All of this suggests that it may be worth looking at school start times as a way to better protect the health of students. Aside from start times, how many great opportunities to learn are missed because of the current schedule? The early time that school starts poses a real risk of damaging the physical and mental health of students. Expecting students to be able to wake up at the early start time for school and still get enough rest, especially with balancing all the important aspects of student life, may be unrealistic. Perhaps Ohio should turn to California lawmakers in considering ways to improve student performance in our schools – and start with letting them catch up on rest.