Teenagers and their parents may find it difficult to get ready for school on weekday mornings. Many teenagers choose to sleep in rather than get up early in the morning to make it to class on time. Since young people’s minds and bodies are in the process of developing, it’s only natural that they desire more sleep.
Experts say that adolescents need between eight and ten hours of sleep per night to function properly. Nearly 60% of middle pupils and 71% of high schoolers are not getting enough sleep.
Poor academic performance can be a result of getting too little sleep. It can also lead to obesity, diabetes, and mental health difficulties in the long term.
It’s possible that early school start times are a contributing factor. Expert groups favor later start times for middle and high schools since evidence suggests that it increases teens’ sleep time and improves safety and academic performance. Early start times have many consequences, and altering school schedules to start later has both positives and cons, as we explore in this article.
What Time Do Schools Start Now?
Classes at the average American public high school begin at eight o’clock in the morning, according to recent data.
Teenagers’ critical sleep deficiency is beginning to influence school start time recommendations from health experts. However, the real school schedules in the United States are not always in accordance with the most current rules.
School start times for middle and high schools should be no earlier than 8:30 a.m. according to the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2014. Most high schools and middle schools in the United States began their day before 8:30 a.m., according to a research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013. Over 40% of all public secondary schools in the United States began their day before 8 a.m. in 2018.
According to the school, start times can vary greatly. Rural and smaller high schools tend to have later start times than their counterparts in urban areas and the suburbs. Also, start times vary by location. Start times for high schools in the District of Columbia varied from 7:07 a.m. to 8:41 a.m. on average.
Changing public health recommendations can take time for policy to reflect. Medical experts’ advice is being taken into consideration by some state legislatures, although this is not a universal trend. For high school and middle school pupils, the state of California approved a bill in 2019 that mandated that first period courses start no earlier than 8:30 am and 8 am, respectively, in the morning.
How Do School Start Times Impact Students?
More sleep is needed by children and teenagers than by adults. Even if there are numerous demands on school-aged children, such as daily homework assignments, sports and other extracurricular activities as well as part-time employment and social responsibilities, modern living might cut into their sleeping time.
On top of this, early school start hours correlate to greater rates of sleep deprivation among preteens and adolescents. Teenagers’ lives, both within and outside of school, can be impacted by sleep deprivation.
Students’ academic performance can be negatively impacted if they are required to start class early in the morning while they are running a sleep deficit.
Memory, organization abilities, and capacity to perform complicated tasks are all impaired by sleep deprivation, which has a negative impact on learning. In addition, sleep deprivation causes students to be exhausted. Nearly three out of every ten pupils polled said they fell asleep in school at least once a week.
As a result of insufficient sleep, one may develop
- Having difficulty concentrating and paying attention
- Creativity is lost.
- Abstract thinking is a problem.
- Poor academic performance
- lower levels of participation
- Higher rates of dropout
When students aren’t receiving enough sleep, they may find it challenging to contribute productively in class since their emotional condition is affected. Adolescents who are sleep deprived are more likely to:
- a lack of drive
- Stress sensitivity is more acute.
- Loss of self-control
- Inability to interpret social signals
Outside of School
There are far-reaching consequences to sleep deprivation. Preteens and teens who get inadequate or poor-quality sleep face a host of physical and behavioral problems and mental health hazards as a result of their sleep deprivation.
- Obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension are just a few of the chronic problems that can be exacerbated by not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
- Chronic sleep deprivation in teens has been linked to an increased risk of sadness and anxiety, as well as an inability to control one’s emotions.
- Drowsy driving puts everyone on the road, regardless of age, at danger of a car accident. Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to be involved in a car accident.
- Teenagers who do not get enough sleep are more likely to misuse both caffeine and prescription stimulants.
- Teens who are sleep deprived are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors such as drinking and smoking, using drugs, driving while intoxicated, engaging in risky sexual behavior, and acting aggressively toward others.
Should School Start Later?
Middle and high schools should start later in the morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Sleep Foundation. The actual start times of schools have been reluctant to change despite the general agreement among health professionals.
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of early school start times because of their unique sleep-wake cycle during adolescence. During puberty, children’s internal sleep clock or circadian rhythm begins to shift, causing them to fall asleep later in the evenings. However, due to early school start hours, pre-teens and teens are unable to make up for their later bedtimes by staying up longer.
Changing middle and high school start times to later in the day will help solve this issue and may have additional benefits as well..
What Are the Benefits of Starting School Later?
Delaying school start times helps teenagers to wake up later in the morning and sleep during the ideal hours for their bodies because of their natural desire to go to sleep later. Students in middle and high school benefit from more sleep on weeknights thanks to later school start hours, according to research.
Students who get enough sleep have a wide range of benefits, from better academic performance to better physical and mental health. Academically, later start times at school are linked to:
- Improved attendance in class
- Improved punctuality
- Higher academic achievements
- Being alert in the classroom
- While doing homework, there is less tiredness.
Taking classes later in the semester may offer advantages outside of the classroom. The following are also linked to later school start times:
- Fewer traffic accidents
- Weekends call for an earlier rise time.
- Reduced signs and symptoms of depression
All ages and grade levels may not benefit from later start times. Early school start times may not cause sleep loss or excessive daytime sleepiness in elementary school pupils, according to some study.
Are There Drawbacks to Later Start Times?
The benefits of later school start hours are evident, but scheduling issues may arise as a result.
- Even for parents who have 9-to-5 jobs, early school start times work perfectly with their schedules because they fall within the 9-to-5 window. Families may have more difficulty coordinating their morning schedules if school starts later.
- School bus transit is simplified by staggered start times for elementary, middle, and high schools. School bus logistics would be more difficult to manage with later start times, and this would necessitate advanced planning.
- Because of the later start time, students will have less time after school. Students may have less time for extracurricular activities on weekdays because of the later end time of school, such as homework, tutoring, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
Every kid, parent, caregiver, and teacher’s morning routine and daily schedule are influenced by school start times. It’s not always easy to change school start times because of the practical issues involved.
How Do School Start Times Affect School Performance?
More than a few studies have demonstrated that students who start school early are more likely to fall behind academically. Low-sleep students have trouble paying attention in class and tend to perform worse academically. Irritability and exhaustion are some possible side effects.
The following issues arise as a result of students having to wake up early for school:
- The likelihood of engaging in risky activities like bullying and fighting is increased.
- Tobacco smoking and other harmful behaviors are more likely to occur.
- Athletic injuries are more likely to occur.
- Depression and suicidal thoughts are on the rise.
- There is a greater chance of a car collision.
Physical and mental health repercussions of sleep deprivation are also long-term. Diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can all be exacerbated by getting too little or too little sleep.
Why Are Later School Start Times Better?
As a result of later start hours, adolescents are able to receive an adequate amount of sleep. The following are additional advantages of later start times:
- Attendance at school has improved.
- Lateness has decreased.
- Enhanced academic performance of students.
- There are fewer instances of students nodding off in class.
- Improved mood and less irritation.
- There are fewer problems with discipline.
- A decrease in the number of collisions involving motor vehicles. One study found that a one-hour delay in the start time of school reduced the number of teenagers who were involved in a car accident by 16.5 percent.
Disadvantages of Later School Start Times
Later school start times provide many advantages, but there are also some potential drawbacks.
- Conflicts in the schedule. When competing against schools with earlier starting times, this could lead to earlier dismissing hours.
- Challenges in the transportation sector. If school starts later, there will be more buses out and about late in the day, which could lead to additional congestion and longer wait times.
- Childcare. Taking care of younger siblings after school can be a difficult task for some families, especially if high schools end later than elementary or middle schools.
Flexibility and thorough planning, on the other hand, are likely to be the solutions to these issues.
Talk to your school board or other educational leaders about delaying the start of school if you are concerned about an early start time for your child’s school.
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