Imagine this: you get up early in the morning, let’s say 6 o’clock. You go to school on time. You’re maybe even 10 minutes early. At 10:30 in the morning, you’re ready to hit the hay and your eyes can’t stay open. Why?
Teenagers are developmentally driven to be late to bed, late to rise. If you understand the previous sentence, it isn’t really our fault. New evidence from the researchers of the University of Minnesota, funded by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that later secondary school starting times have widespread benefits. They found that the later the schools’ start times, the better the students were on many levels, including mental health, car crash rates, attendance and in some schools, better grades and standardized test scores.
During adolescence, as hormones surge throughout teens’ bodies and the brain develops, teenagers who regularly sleep 8-9 hours a night learn better and are less likely to be sluggish, get in fights and are less prone to sustain athletic injuries. Sleeping well also affects brash decision making.
The University of Minnesota study followed 9,000 high school students in five districts in Colorado, Wyoming and Minnesota before and after schools shifted start times from about 7:30 a.m. to about 8:30 a.m. In those that originally started at 7:30 a.m., only a third of students said they were able to get eight or more hours of sleep.
Students who got less than (around) 8 hours of sleep reported many more cases of symptoms of depression, and greater use of caffeine, alcohol and illegal drugs than their better-rested peers.
In schools that start at 8:30 a.m., more than 60% of the students reported that they now had more than 8 hours of sleep per night.
Research (that word again…) shows that during the REM, rapid eye movement, phase when people sleep, the brain is as active as if they were awake and is sorting out and categorizing the day’s data. Without enough sleep, a teenager’s brain can’t solidify data, so they can’t categorize it or absorb information as thorough.
Some parents, students even, object to this change of the schools’ start times. They say doing so makes sports practices end late, messes up student jobs, homework hours and extracurricular activities, and upsets the morning routine for working parents and younger children.
As opposed to that, many parents and teachers in the high schools that changed their starting times saw that students were more alert in their lessons than before.
More sports practices and clubs gather before school; the addition of Wi-Fi to buses so that students could get more homework done on the road; car pools to save time for parents with kids with larger age gaps. These have all been used to let the community of students and their families to adjust to the change in school start times.
I’m not saying we’re going to have a petition to start school later; in fact, Nobel almost has the starting time right, if you compare it with other schools that begin at 7.30 a.m. We, as students, have to play a part in this and try to do our coursework faster, not surf the internet every time we go on the computer, and sleep early. Most important: sleep early, it’s how you can play your part in staying awake during class.