Could a few hours of extra sleep completely change the trajectory of a teenager’s life? Schools have begun in the early hours of the day since the creation of education. A majority of adolescents in America are required to wake up before the sun even rises, then expected to be at their peak levels of focus and determination for the following seven hours. Considering they are learning information relating to their lives and eventual occupations, the future depends on the things they are taught. Though, it is hard to believe they will be able to use that knowledge if they are too tired to process it in the first place. Time and time again, studies have proven that starting school later in the morning provided countless benefits and progress beyond belief, yet most school districts are reluctant to make this change. Because sleep is what gives people the ability to function properly, waking up at later times would benefit high-school-aged children in terms of their grades and mental well-being, causing them to not only gain more focus and motivation but also obtain a positive outlook and enough energy to tackle the day ahead of themselves.
A lack of sleep is directly associated with mental and physical defects. During a person’s teenage years, their body is biologically prone to staying up late, meaning a five in the morning wake-up time would be harmful to their well-being. This becomes an issue when it is taken into mind that adolescence is a significant period of growth for the human brain, and an inadequate sleep cycle could give children illnesses that follow them into adulthood. The longer someone’s rest is interrupted, the more health problems they begin to experience, much like Ellen S. Bruce mentioned in her article Sleep in Adolescents and Young Adults, when stating, “An early indication of a patient developing problems with their sleep can be sleep fragmentation, where individuals have difficulty remaining asleep, resulting in them feeling unrefreshed.” Sleep fragmentation could lead to insomnia, where falling asleep and even waking up feels like an impossible challenge. From there, insomnia is the gateway to other sicknesses linked to sleep deficiency.
Insomnia is not the only disorder caused by tiredness. Many people face the consequences of their unhealthy sleep hygiene as early as their teenage years, facing the consequences of the two-hour nights of sleep they receive every single night. In their clinical review titled Sleep Disorders in Children and Adolescents, Suresh Kotagal and Paul Pianosi list examples of illnesses they are at risk for, including, “delayed sleep phase syndrome, narcolepsy, depression, anxiety, and restless leg syndrome.” Disorders like these call for medical attention in order to cure, and can be the cause of even fewer hours of sleep for a person. Fixing the issues between adolescents with sleeping disorders caused by a lack of proper rest at night could be the key to enhancing the quality of life. They will acquire more time to fixate on their grades as well as getting their lives together.
Low amounts of sleep at night can also result in a poor mood and fatigue throughout a teenager’s day at school. From here, teachers will be more difficult to pay attention to and lessons will be harder to comprehend. Students will lose their motivation to learn and the only thing on their minds will be sleep. Poor grades will be soon to follow and the stress of this all will trap them in a lethal cycle of staying up late and waking up early.
Children are not the only people who have to wake up before sunrise and attend school day after day. Teachers, office workers, and other educational staff members are often expected to arrive even earlier than their students. Because of this, we should wonder how later school starting and ending times would affect them, and if the consequences would be positive or negative.
If the staff were able to arrive at work later in the morning, they would have the chance to sleep for longer as well. Whether or not they would take it and benefit from it is the question. Members of the Oxford Academy conducted a study on exactly this, calling their results Impact of Changing School Starting Times on Teachers/Staff. Within this experiment, an elementary school started earlier in the day than they previously had, while a middle and high school in the same district started later.
The teachers of these older students jumped at the opportunity to receive more rest, both reporting later wake-up times and increased total hours of sleep. In contrast, elementary school teachers failed to experience a change in the amount of rest they obtained. As a result of this, they reported feeling less prepared to start their day, while there was no mention of this from middle or high school staff. On the contrary, middle and high school teachers actually experienced less daytime sleepiness. There was a clear difference between the outcomes of the study on schools beginning later and earlier.
Overall, it seems as if a later start time would be very beneficial to both students and staff. Not only would it improve the attentiveness and energy of the students, but it would also increase the quality of teaching. Educators would have more motivation to put their full potential into their lessons, as well as greet their students in optimistic and upbeat manners. They would be able to pay more attention to each individual member of their classroom and address problems with more efficiency. These same students would be more willing to learn as well, which leads to a double increase in productiveness, considering both the teacher and their class had encountered suitable hours of rest.
High school districts across the country would profit off adjusting their start and end times to later hours. Their students’ grades would skyrocket as a result of better mental and physical health, more motivation to learn, and better quality teachers. Every person in the building would start their days feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next few hours without sleepiness clouding their minds and preventing them from exerting their full effort. Multiple psychologists and researchers recommend that school begins later in the morning, and each of their findings prove the positive effects this has on the members of the district. With the best interest of their students’ futures in mind, schools should start and end at later times, allowing teenagers a few extra hours of shut eye in the morning that may be life changing to them.
“Sleep in adolescents and young adults” Clinical Medicine. Ellen S Bruce, Laura Lunt, Janet E McDonagh, 17 October 2017. 17 October 2022.
“Sleep disorders in children and adolescents” The BMJ. Suresh Kotagal, Paul Pianosi, 6 April 2006. 17 October 2022.
“Impact of Changing School Start Times on Teachers/Staff” Oxford Academy. Amy E Plog, Janise McNally, Kyla L Wahlstrom, Lisa J Meltzer, 12 April 2019. 17 October 2022.