Recent studies show that most adolescents (ages 12- 25) need 8.5-9.25 hours of sleep per night, yet only 41% of middle schoolers and 13% of high schoolers get enough sleep.
Additionally, melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland that regulates the wake-sleep cycle, is a contributing factor as to why teens aren’t getting enough sleep.
Melatonin is released later when puberty hits, and “This shift often makes many teenagers incapable of falling asleep before 11 at night,” says teen sleep expert Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D., a professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Brown University School of Medicine and director of the Chronobiology/Sleep Research Laboratory at Bradley Hospital in East Providence, R.I. Because of this, the chance of getting teens to sleep early is nearly impossible.
This may suggest that schools that start at 7:00 am to 8:00 am are preventing students from getting sufficient sleep.
Since getting teens to sleep early is out of the equation, another solution is to have schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later, such as what The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended.
Starting schools later, as an experiment in Wake County, North Carolina shows increased math and reading test scores.
Furthermore, according to Start School Later Inc./Healthy Hours, Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming also tried this experiment, and found that starting schools later than 8:00 a.m. made the number of car crashes involving teenage drivers to drop by 70%.
In addition, starting schools later can help prevent obesity, migraines, and health risk behaviors including smoking, drinking, stimulant abuse, physical fighting, physical inactivity, depression, suicidal tendencies, etc.
According to National Sleep Foundation, On April 2, 1999, Rep. Zoe Lofgren introduced a congressional resolution to push schools and school districts to change early school times to allow students more sleep. House Congressional Resolution 135 or the “ZZZ’s to A’s” Act encouraged individuals schools to change their morning school times.
Public opinion seems to agree with Lofgren’s “ZZZ’s to A’s” Act. National Sleep Foundation’s 2002 Sleep in America poll, 80% of respondents said high schools should start no earlier than 8:00 a.m., with 47% of these respondents saying start times should be between 8:00 and 8:30 a.m. Only 17% of respondents said high school should begin before 8:00 a.m.
“Over time, sleep deprivation leads to serious consequences for academic achievement, social behavior, and the health and safety of our nation’s youth,” Lofgren says, according to National Sleep Foundation. “We must encourage schools to push back their start times to at least 8:30 a.m. — a schedule more in tune with adolescents’ biological sleep and wake patterns and more closely resembling the adult work day.”
All evidence points to later school times as useful. Changing the school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later will benefit the students and, as a result, the school, and the community as a whole.