Later school start proves healthier for teens

by Madison Marko – Staff Reporter

Biiiiinnnggggg! Students nationwide groggily grope the air, searching for the button to make that awful sound stop. Sitting up, their eyes wander toward the clock on the wall that reads 6 a.m. Seven hours of sleep and it is time to start the daily grind all over again.

This may or may not be a typical morning for a student that is expected to be at school around 7:30 a.m. This continuous lack of sleep could lead to the development of many different physical and emotional health problems, and yet the overwhelming majority of schools still open their doors bright and early to welcome sleepy-eyed, sleep-deprived teenagers.

The Seattle School Board recently became one of the first to try to change this standard. On Nov. 18, 2015, the Seattle School Board voted 6-1 in favor of starting the city’s public high schools, most middle schools and some K-8 schools at 8:45 a.m. starting next school year.

This change came about after a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that stated middle and high schools should delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later.

The beginning of the official statement from the Academy of Pediatrics said, “Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance.” It then went on to describe other side effects of sleep loss, which include: an increased risk of alcohol and drug use, poor judgement, lack of motivation, higher risk of developing depression, daytime sleepiness, anxiety, and increased hunger which in turn leads to a higher obesity risk.

According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 59 percent of 6th through 8th graders and 87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights, making them more susceptible to these many conditions.

If there are that many side effects of sleep loss, and that many people at risk, then why have start times never been delayed in the majority of high schools? Some people argue that sports would run too late after school, but as sophomore Hansen Slane said, “They would have to move sports before school instead of after.” Although the Seattle School Board has not specified if athletics will take place before or after school, it is likely, and they are working with Seattle Parks and Recreation to determine facility use.

Having before school practice may seem to counteract the benefits of later school start times for athletes, but student athletes are generally more academically responsible and can get their work done after school in time to get to bed at a reasonable time. When asked about how being a student athlete affects her work ethic, freshman Leizllyn Nicolas said, “Being a student athlete affects my work ethic because I know that if I want to keep playing the sports that I love, I need to keep my grades up. I have to keep turning in all of my homework and studying for tests.”

Even though practice might be before school, motivated student athletes would have more time after school to complete their work and get to bed at a reasonable time.

Later school start times would benefit the emotional and physical health, as well as the academic success, of students and save them from the risk of many complicated conditions related to sleep loss.

1 Comment

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