Early School Start Times Damaging to Students

Student sleeping in class

A recent study found that teenaged students require a later school start time due to their changing biorhythms.
Image: Shutterstock

Nobody ever likes getting up early for school (probably), but research suggests that the sleepiness that comes with class start times of 7 AM for high schoolers may actually be damaging to their health. A recent study indicated that fewer than one in five middle or high schools started class at 8:30 A.M. or later, preventing young people from getting the sleep they need and effecting their school performance negatively.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Oxford, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Nevada, found that “start times should be 8:30 or later at age 10; 10:00 or later at 16; and 11:00 or later at 18.” Getting enough sleep helps students stave off sleep deprivation (something they’ll have in abundance in their later years), which will help boost learning and development. Pediatricians recommend students be able to get at least eight and a half hours of sleep a night, and because they often can’t help staying up late, later start times for school are a necessary component of their holistic health.

Young people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, be depressed, smoke, and use drugs and alcohol in addition to doing poorly in school, reports Today. Getting enough sleep is essential for good performance, and accommodating the body-clock shift of two hours that occurs in children as they become teenagers will help them do better—and feel better.

But it isn’t an easy adjustment to just change school times. One of the biggest problems is the bus schedules, as the same drivers generally serve all schools, elementary to high school, so the longer the drivers have to stay out on the road, the more they need to be paid. Additionally, if elementary school students are sent to school earlier and high schoolers later to cater to their body schedules, teachers would also need to be paid more to stay at school longer. Parents would have to adjust, and so would after-school activities. It’s a big switch.

Though pediatricians say that switching school times is necessary for student health, it will take a lot of time, planning, and manpower before that can happen for most schools. In the meantime, students should limit use of smartphones and do their best to stick to a regular sleep schedule.


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