More sleep, more brainpower

Jason Cobos, Staff

For years, the American school system has made students wake up early in the morning and prepare for the school day; however, most would say that these times result in students being sluggish throughout the school day. Studies show that waking up early puts unnecessary stress on the body and if schools give students more time to rest, it would surely benefit them.

Students report that they would feel motivated and would produce better classwork with more rest, due to feeling more attentive and alert. California recently spoke about barring most high schools from starting at 8:30 am and middle schools from starting at 8:00 am the school board stated they will try to make these changes happen within the next three years.

In addition, research shows that a later school start time can increase the quality and duration of students’ attention spans in school, also linked to various health benefits such as lower rates of depression and decreases the chance of teens ending up in car accidents. One must also take into account that not everyone will benefit from these changes, parents will need to adjust to changes in their schedule if they want to pick their kids up from school.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that middle and high schools should start at 8:30 am or later. There are various people in the California school board who oppose this transition by arguing that students can resolve this issue by going to bed earlier— however that would solve nothing, as adolescents usually go to bed later at night so they need to sleep later into the morning

“We don’t oppose later school start time. We actually encourage districts to examine school start times to see if later times make sense for them, but what we object to is a one-size-fits-all unfunded mándate that discourages parental choice and doesn’t take into account the diverse needs of various communities across the state,” Troy Flint said in an NBC interview.

Sleep patterns differ from adults to children, with teens more likely to go to bed later on in the night; this fact prevents students from receiving the quality amount of sleep they need to feel alert and fully awake in the morning. Kyla Walstrom, a senior research fellow at the University Of Minnesota’s College of Education, studied the ways that a 50-minute change would impact students. After conducting research and gathering information, she noticed major changes: for example, fewer students checked into the nurse’s office. In addition, the school’s counselor noted fewer students coming in to discuss their mental health issues.

Pediatricians view an insufficient amount of sleep as a public health issue, which helps support the movement towards delaying the start time of schools. A legislative analysis in July found that roughly half the schools in the state of California must delay their start times by 30 minutes to comply with the law. Schools must take into consideration the damage of not giving students enough rest to maintain their academic and extracurricular activities outside of school. 

Although not everyone will benefit from these changes in their schedule and daily lives, pushing back school start times would still largely benefit the productivity and health of students. If students were given a couple more hours of sleep and started school at a later time they would feel energized and attentive providing them with better education and overall experience.