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School Start Times and Students

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DING! DING! The alarm goes off. Still tired the teenage student hits the snooze button. Sound familiar? For many middle and high school students all across America this is a typical weekday morning. Is this because teens are lazy? No! It is because of school start times. Teen students’ need a later school start time for many reasons: it gives teens the opportunity to get much needed sleep; it improves teens’ grades; and it helps them be healthier.
Many teenagers are not getting enough sleep and this is often due to early school start times. Adolescent bodies are naturally in what scientists call a sleep phase which takes place between ages eleven through eighteen. This means that teen bodies are designed to go to sleep later and wake up later. Teens need about 9.5 hours of sleep nightly. With the current school schedule the average teen gets only seven hours. According to the National Sleep Foundation 28% of high school students fall asleep during their first period class (NSF 1). Why adolescents need sleep to perform at their best? When the human body doesn’t get enough sleep the mind will not work as well. Studies prove that humans with less sleep have a much shorter attention span and are more likely to forget new information easier and quicker. A later start time gives students obviously much help to perform during the school day.
A later school start time has a positive effect on students’ grades. A later start gives students a longer attention span and a better morning. Obviously these factors would dramatically affect a student’s school performance. In addition schools with later start times have higher attendance rates. At schools with early start times many students sleep anyway during school, so they don’t even bother to show up. Many high schools in Kentucky and Minneapolis made the change to a later start time and their attendance and test scores immediately rose (Strensrud 1). The failure rates also go down as the school start time gets later. Students who are awake can pay attention during school which leads to better grades and lower dropout rates. A senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, CO describes it best: “I know personally on days where I haven’t gotten a lot of sleep I don’t perform well on tests. I don’t perform as well in music or my performances. There are a lot of things that can be helped with a little extra sleep in the morning” (Jones).

Teens’ health will also be improved because teen caffeine use will drop if they don’t have to wake up as early in the morning. This is good for teens that get their energy from caffeine found in energy drinks, soda or coffee. These are usually full of sugar and calories which are causing teens multiple health problems. Most importantly, a later school start time has a positive impact on students’ health. Students who go to a high school with a later start time have generally had far fewer problems with issues such as stress, depression, irritation, unhappiness, obesity and drugs or alcohol abuse (“Awake in America”). With all of these issues being lowered along with the issue of being too tired gone, teen related auto-accidents have been on average 15% less in areas where schools have later start times in the morning (Ivanhoe Newswire). Staying alive is obviously the most ultimate way to be healthy and this could be indeed helped with a later school start time.
Many schools around the country are considering changing to a later start time. High schools that haven’t yet thought about it, or think it wouldn’t help, need to take time to look into this. Later start times have a positive effect on students’ sleep patterns, grades, and overall health, emotionally and physically. Not changing is very harmful and possibly life threatening to the students of America. The traditional start time that high schools have kept for many years is not working. The entire next generation of Americans, physically and academically, could be at serious risk when the solution is as simple as change in the high school starting times.





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