OP-ED: Should School Days Start Later?

Oct. 23, 2017 / By

Photo by clemsonunivlibrary via Flickr

The first day of school is easy. That I know. The clothes are already laid out, my shoes are at the end of my bed with my cute, fresh socks tucked in them neatly. None of my siblings got any sleep last night even though we all went to bed at 9:30 p.m. But I mean, how could we? We’re too nervous about this school year. Still, we wake up an hour earlier to arrive on time and proceed on our day, nervous yet still floating with excitement. Like I said, the first day is easy. However the rest of the school year might not be so smooth.

Throughout past school years, I noticed I become more groggy, cranky, and an all-around monster at the sheer thought of school as the months pass by. This is because my sleep was snatched from under me like a thin carpet! BOOM! It’s next Wednesday! I’m well into school now and the routine is already imprinted in my brain. Wake up an hour earlier, get dressed, brush my teeth, comb my hair and the rest of my time is spent looking for that one shoe I said I’d look for this morning. It was 2 a.m. last night when I lost it, because I was barely finishing that 10-page essay my lunatic teacher thinks I have the time for. The school year is further in now and a full eight hours of sleep is laughable.

It’s no secret that people should get a full night’s sleep in order to be their best selves for the next day. But when teenagers have at least two hours of homework each night and are expected to be involved in sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, have a job and still maintain a social life, it becomes evident how quickly we forget about the importance of sleeping well.  

Image by Robert Hruzek via Flickr.com

According to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll, sleep deprivation affects about 90 percent of American high school students, as they get far less than the recommended eight to 10 hours, and the amount of time we sleep is decreasing — a serious threat to our health, safety and academic success. By definition, sleep deprivation is the situation or condition of suffering from a lack of sleep, and according to sleep researcher Wendy M. Troxel in a TED Talk, she called the problem of tired teens a “public health epidemic.” It increases the likelihood that teens will suffer a variety of negative outcomes, such as the inability to concentrate, poor grades, car accidents, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, the researcher argues.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, a health and research organization, recommends that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

I asked a couple of 18-year-old Long Beach Polytechnic High School seniors about their opinions on school start times and to my surprise, I got a lot of mixed answers. I asked all of them the same two questions: How has the school’s regulation of early start times affected you and do you think you would do better with later start times?

“I think I would be less stressed,” Jackie Lopez said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m rushed and when I’m rushed, I don’t put out my best work.” She went on to explain the high expectations as a student in the Program of Additional Curricular Experiences (PACE) — the highest and most vigorous academy at Polytechnic High School — and how that contributes to stress as well.

Next was Kendra Viloria. She didn’t mind waking up as early as we do. “If it started later, I would probably do the same [routine],” Viloria said.

Some might think that starting school later would be a regression. One theory is that this new schedule could push the entire day back and that kids would still go to bed later. Although this sounds plausible, it is highly unlikely to come true. The time in which we turn in to bed would be the same because only the wake-up time would change. The majority of school officials think of adolescents as being lazy and having no ambition, and it’s this one-sided point of view that is the root of many problems in our school systems.

In summation, the next time the topic of how adolescents are moody and aggravated pops up in conversation, know that it is because the ridiculous school system deprives us of sleep. It just straight-up sucks.

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Jannai Simmons

Hi! I'm a 17-year-old theater nerd in my last year of high school. I'm also a film geek or more formally known as an aspiring filmmaker. Both acting and filmmaking have been something close to my heart, and I'm glad that I found these passions at such a young age. So bottom line: I'm a geek and a nerd which makes me Top Dork, and if this were a cliché teenage movie, I'd be the one who gets the guy in the end.