Opinion: Move Back the School Start Times

Opinion: Move Back the School Start Times

Ellie Galt, Staff Writer

There is no shortage of evidence to support the fact that humans need sleep. Lack of sleep in general causes problems for nearly every bodily and emotional function.  Lack of sleep during adolescence, when your body and mind are working overtime to grow into an adult, can cause serious issues ranging from diabetes and heart problems to learning difficulties and an increased risk of suicide. The importance of consistent, deep sleep for teenagers cannot be overstated. 

Us teenagers are not getting the amount of sleep we need, and it is most definitely not our fault. According to sleepfoundation.org, teens have a circadian rhythm significantly different from adults that causes us to be “night owls”. We simply don’t tire, and our brains don’t produce melatonin until later in the night, so most teens don’t tend to fall asleep naturally until 11pm. Falling into a habit of doing homework late at night and spending extended time on computers and phones disrupts a healthy sleep schedule. 

There are many factors that contribute to sleep deprivation, but the most unnecessary and frustrating of them all, at least in my perspective, is the early start time of the school day.”

There are many factors that contribute to sleep deprivation, but the most unnecessary and frustrating of them all, at least in my perspective, is the early start time of the school day. In Central Bucks, school starts at 7:25. Let’s be super generous and assume most students can sleep in to about 7 on a good day (although the bus-riders and long commuters would deem this grossly unfair), so you would have to be asleep by 11 pm to get the bare minimum amount of sleep required for teenagers to function properly. Naps could help, but that is assuming you don’t have a conflicting extra-curricular activity, and if you’re like me and need complete darkness to even consider falling asleep, the risk of wasting time is too large. 

Consider quarantine. With all its disappointments and inconveniences, it undoubtedly provided the gift of time. For the first time since Lenape, I felt thoroughly well rested. My skin cleared up, I read for pleasure, I was less irritable around my family, all while still having classes. While there were many adjustments that made our school routine more manageable, I believe waking up at 9am was paramount. 

A later start time does not guarantee every student will be asleep by 11pm and get the necessary 8-10 hours, but it does provide flexibility for each individual to fall into a schedule that works for them. You don’t have to sleep until 9am to take advantage of the extra time in the morning; maybe you find you prefer to save some classwork for the morning and get to bed earlier, or maybe you utilize morning hours for exercise and a big breakfast. Later start times allow students opportunities for healthier, more well-rounded lifestyles. And, as we saw last spring, it is very doable. 

Now that I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be well rested and high functioning in school, it feels cruel and unfair to force us to go back to the misery of before. The workload and competitiveness of every aspect of adolescent life is steadily increasing, but biology has yet to change, so sleep should always remain the top priority. I’m tired of feeling like I must choose between the responsibilities to my health and the responsibilities to my schoolwork. I feel hurt and disregarded by a school district that can see the serious and visible detriments to teens caused by sleep deprivation and look the other way.