School or Sleep. Why must we choose?

November 6, 2009
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In a country that is searching for answers as to why its children are not performing at top capacity, it seems fairly obvious that one of those answers may be found in the time at which they start their school day. For any parent who has looked with pity upon their teenage children as they drag themselves, glassy-eyed, and bedraggled, out of bed at 6 AM each day, there is a way to help. Do some deluging of your own and bombard your school board with well-researched pleas for a later start to the high school day. Not only will our students be healthier and more successful at tasks in school, they will become nicer individuals.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders has published studies explaining that once a child goes through puberty, the body’s circadian rhythm changes. An eight or nine year old is physically capable of falling asleep at 9:00 P.M., but a teen over the age of thirteen has already gone through a circadian rhythm shift, in which the natural hormone Melatonin is not released until later at night, leaving them unable to fall asleep until 11:00 P.M. or 12 A.M. This creates the scenario of teens receiving no more than six to six and a half hours of sleep a night, when research shows that they need a minimum of nine to eleven hours. Combine this with the stress of constant testing, heavy course loads, after school clubs, jobs and research internships and you get a very stressed out, unhealthy young ‘next generation.’ Who can blame them for being cranky?

The following list outlines the key points in the debate for a later school day.

Weight Gain: When one goes to sleep early, one produces specific chemicals that inhibit weight loss. The body views sleep loss as stress, and stress encourages people to want to eat carbs, like pasta, bread, or potato chips. Sleep deprivation lowers leptin levels (a chemical which indicates body fat and fullness), and raises ghrelin levels (a chemical which induces hunger and reduces satiation levels). The body reacts in this way because it sees sleep loss as a major source of stress. The association between sleep deprivation and obesity seems to be strongest in young-adults. According to the online library system, GALE, several important studies using nationally representative samples suggest that the obesity problem in the United States might have teen sleep loss as a major factor.

(2) Disease: The health detriment to teens is actually quite frightening. A 1999 study

discovered that 11 healthy students who slept only four hours per night for six nights showed insulin and blood sugar levels similar to those of people "on the verge of diabetes." Equally impressive studies demonstrate rise in heart disease and blood pressure in young people who are sleep deprived.

Better Grades: lack of sleep affects a student’s cognitive state, making it difficult to focus on the details of a class, and adversely affecting memory. Studies have shown that schools who moved their start times from 7:30 A.M. to 8:10 A.M., and especially those schools whose days begin at 9:00 AM, have noticeably better and more alert students. In these schools, 90% of the student populous move up a full grade, and those who are already in the A-range become more energetic and creative. (APA Monitor) Apparently the high level thinking that becomes impaired with sleep loss returns with an extra one and a half to two hours of sleep.

This should not be surprising as numerous studies from medical schools like the University of California at San Diego (2000) have determined that the brains of otherwise healthy teens had to work harder to achieve less when sleep-deprived.

In the year that the new high school schedule was implemented for the schools involved in the above study, teachers found that more of the curriculum was able to be taught in a single period. Even the teachers themselves seemed more involved and animated, according to an anonymous survey. After all, teaching is partially a performance art, and a performer can only be as good as his or her audience. If people in the audience are sleeping, it cuts down on some of the performer’s enthusiasm!

Sports: Sleep is a natural steroid. It boosts stamina and energy, but best of all, it doesn’t hurt the body like anabolic steroids. The more sleep someone gets, the more likely they are to succeed, and even excel in sports. Imagine what nine hours a night could do for the high school football team?

Personality: As someone who has personally experienced this debilitating loss of sleep, I can safely say that on the days when I lose a lot of sleep, I am a very grumpy and unapproachable individual.

Parents and teachers say that they want teens to communicate with them, but high school students are communicating on a daily basis: through their anxiety, frustration, constant colds and illness, short tempers, and need for isolation—just to recuperate from battling an exhausting day on six hours of sleep. The Government is so concerned about keeping students in school for more hours—how about allowing teens to begin their school day more rested so they can perform in a more focused, energetic manner? 9:00 A.M. –it’s such a nice round number.

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This article has 319 comments. Post your own now!

ms.practicallyintellectual said...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm
sounds informative... i liked it... but lukng at it practicly... i wud radr say dat difrnt ppl hv difrnt viewz... as long as u luv going 2 skul... evrythng suits nd flz in plc... SKUL ROCKZ!!! u get all ur frndz, exposure nd knowldge dere... ;D
ms.practicallyintellectual replied...
Jan. 7, 2012 at 3:57 am
dearest nancydrew girl, im as much a writer as you are... that is the very reason i have logged onto this is rightly said that words are just meaningless letters, when without feelings, so it would be better if you would take in account what is said rather than describing the vocabulary i used as 'phone language'... and had my language been so incoherent, you would have never been able to decipher and comment... i would also like to add that i have been the president of the debate c... (more »)
nancydrewgirl replied...
Jan. 7, 2012 at 10:30 pm
ms. practicallyintellectual, I'm glad you know the importance of writing correctly. It will serve you well. But just because you are the captain of the debate team does not give you extreme bragging rights. I could say that I've been to numerous writing camps or that some of my work has been published. I've won awards. But that's not the point. Just because you were not completely incoherent with your language does not make it right or easy to read. It took me a bit to decipher it. Plus it giv... (more »)
Coolcats360 replied...
Apr. 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm
Nancydrewgirl, there is only one way to describe you, fantastically awesome! And I love the nancy drew series too! Have you tried the computer games? They're really fun to play!
xpoler replied...
Dec. 2, 2015 at 12:07 pm
@ms.practicallyintellectual .......burn
TheBallerGamer replied...
Feb. 8, 2017 at 11:23 am
I agree totally right
callie15 said...
Sept. 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm
Hmm, well my school starts at 8:30 and ends at 3:30, and I've never had a problem with it. I think that some people naturally need more sleep than others, and I guess I don't need a lot. I thtink the only thing wrong with your idea is it takes away from your worktime. If you start school fairly early and end fairly early, you have enough time afterwords to finish your homework. If it starts an hour later, it takes an hour away from your worktime, and if your classes are like mine, you get a lot.... (more »)
Turquoise said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm
my school begins at 9:15 whereas my younger siblings at 8:30. But as other people are commenting, it's not ALL great. I get out of school an entire hour later!
Duckie14 said...
Jul. 31, 2011 at 8:11 pm
I love the idea, but pushing back the school makes ending later too. I think the best solution is ban busy work that some teachers give that take hours fromt eh work you actually need to do. But overall, so well written and it is a fantastic argument... Keep building!!!
DefyGravity123 said...
Jul. 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

This was a really well-written article, but I have to say I disagree with your point of view. My high school starts at 7:45, and I get up at 6 every morning. I'd be okay with starting at 8:45, but that would mean getting out at 4:15. In addition, I do sports at my school, and pushing the school day an hour back would push practices back an hour as well. Normally, during the season, practice ends at 6, and I'm usually home by 6:20, which is a bit stressful, but doable with all my homework. Wit... (more »)

soldout said...
Jul. 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Price tag for piece above ;D -

$Interesting. Well-written

aaliona said...
Jul. 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm
I agree with this, and you've included studies and facts to back you up. A popular saying at my high school is, "Sleep? What's sleep?" Our principal had even said he would love for school to run from 9:30-4:30 instead of 8:30-3:30.
Belac77 said...
Jul. 27, 2011 at 8:10 am
Yep, I agree. But nothing is going to change sadly.
PaperIdeas said...
Jul. 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm
Great article! I was wondering why I couldn't fall asleep at 9:00 anymore...Thanks!
ausomness said...
May 9, 2011 at 4:50 pm
a good way to get some more sleep is 2 go 2 bed earlier i wake up at 5 and go to bed at 8 i know you probobly dont fell tierd then but if u listen to soft music youll fell tied right away
Inkslinger said...
May 8, 2011 at 5:47 pm

This makes so much sense! My school doesn't start until 8:10, and I can imagine what having to start schol at 7:30 would to to my grades and attitude.


ZeeBYoung said...
Apr. 30, 2011 at 10:09 pm
.... wow, I think I love you. No seriously, I have a sleep problem, and I HATE having to go to school on 4 hrs... this should be published.
kisekinya said...
Mar. 27, 2011 at 10:37 pm
I agree with everything you said here! A teen shouldn't have to loose sleep, especialy over school! Teachers tell us to get a good nights sleep the day before a test, and yet, they give us loads of homework! My teachers also tell us each time before a test to get a good breakfast... but with the homework the night before causing sleep deprivation, how can I wake up early enough?
Megs23 said...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 8:07 pm
I totally agree with everything you said. I am in middle school and the school day starts at 8am and I have to get up at 6. Everyone at my school is always complaining about hpw tired they are and many people have gone to the principle about it but they don't listen. We tried everything.
Icy96 said...
Feb. 3, 2011 at 11:08 am
Excellent job, this was incredibly well-written. I think I'm going to show your article to my school board. Here in Chicago, there are schools that are literally paying students cash money for high grades, so I think the school board would listen if we proposed this kind of change. Thank you for writing this, and please continue to do so ;)
Nokidding replied...
Feb. 5, 2011 at 11:28 am
Sounds like a good idea. Cash for high grades? On the other hand, it's such a sad state of affairs in our country when educators who are supposed to be on our side and leading us to new intellectual heights have to bribe us to learn.
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