Later school start times help stressed out students

Morgan Barr, Reporter

Imagine, a teenager. Most of them wake up around 5:30, shower, pick an outfit, get dressed, blow dry, brush and style their hair before either A. polishing off their makeup or B. shaving their face. After that, they head downstairs and pack a lunch so that they don’t get sick from the school’s so called “food”. They are so tired and just want to go back to bed, so they drink 2 or 3 cups of coffee and eat a package of pop tarts just to keep themselves awake. After brushing their teeth, and feeding the dog, they grab their backpack, keys and lunchbox and run out the door before they are late. If school didn’t start at 7:20, they might have time to get a decent night’s sleep, and be able to be awake without a caffeine and sugar fueled diet. Between after school sports, clubs, and a part time job, there is barely any time to study or do homework. So teens wait until they get home at 11:00 and work on schoolwork until 1:00 am; then go to sleep, wake up at 5:30 the next morning, and do it all over again.

“Early to bed, Early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Said Ben Franklin. But with all the activities that teens have, getting to bed early is growing more and more difficult. School start times have been a growing controversy within the last few years. With teens gaining more and more responsibility, (such as Honors/AP courses, school & club sports, after school jobs and 4-6 hours of homework a night.) getting the correct amount of sleep is even more challenging. A study from the National Sleep Foundation found that teenagers are seriously sleep deprived. From that study, around 60% of teens said that they felt tired during the day, and around 14% admitted to falling asleep during class within the school year. Other studies done by the National Sleep Foundation have also shown that later sleep and wake patterns are a part of a teenager’s biological makeup, and starting school around 7:00-7:30 am is in contrast with an adolescent’s sleep patterns, and needs. As for how much sleep they should be getting each night: Teenagers need between 8 and 11 hours of sleep a night according to the National Sleep Foundation. But according to a recent survey done by a student at Big Spring, only 4 out of 55 students actually get the correct amount of sleep. That is only 7%. The other 93% of students had varying answers on how many hours of sleep they get each night. The hours range from only 2 hours to as much as 6 hours.

Zoe Lofgren, a congresswoman from California’s 19th district and a huge advocate for later school start times,  introduced a congressional resolution to encourage schools and districts to really consider the biological makeup of teens, and have school start times be more in sync with their sleep patterns. The “ZZZ’s to A’s Act” would encourage schools to start no earlier than 8:30 am. She said to the National Sleep Foundation. “I hope that this is a wake up call to school districts and parents all over this country, with early school start times, some before 7:00 a.m., adolescents are not getting enough sleep.” If school started at 8:30, like it does for most elementary schools, it could still be over around 3:30, with plenty of time for after school sports, and part time jobs. In all reality, to be in school for 8 hours is not necessary, when at least 2 hours are dedicated to lunch and study halls, starting school only an hour later should not affect the schedule.

Multiple school districts combat this reasoning by saying a later start time will cause less time for after school athletics, and clubs. Other reasonings, according to an article by Marie Anderson, could include the school itself saving money, and parents finding that earlier start times fit better with their schedules. Schools save money on transportation by starting school earlier, by staggering district start times; which then allows the same driver to run multiple routes in one day. All in all, it means there are less buses needed according to an article done by Marie Anderson.  But is a reduced transportation cost worth risking the health of the students? There is a way that the bus routes could be staggered, but still allow the high school students to get the correct amount of sleep. This other option would would be to switch elementary and high school start times. Doing this would work well, considering younger children are in bed earlier, and tend to get more sleep than teenagers. It also solves the issue of after school sports. Elementary schools (typically) end only 30 minutes after high school ends. So after school athletics could stay similar in practice times. As for transportation to and from athletics, many schools offer busing after practices for athletes. Activity busing (as it is often called) eliminates the issue of students having to walk home in the dark after Daylight Savings Time (when it becomes dark out earlier).

About 90% of students surveyed said that they have ALL of the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Some of which include; difficulty waking up in the morning, irritability, falling asleep during the day (and during class), oversleeping on the weekends, having difficulty remembering or concentrating, and waking up often during the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Serious sleep deprivation can lead to a student falling asleep while driving on the way to school, and causing an accident. Falling asleep at the wheel is one of the top causes of teen accidents next to texting and driving, as well as drinking and driving. Maybe if teens were able to get a few more hours of sleep each morning, those teens who fell asleep at the wheel would still be here today.