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Opinion: Delaying school start times won’t prepare students for college, real world

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that middle and high schools change their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended that middle and high schools change their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement last month recommending that middle schools and high schools delay the start of classes until 8:30 a.m. or later. 

According to the group’s research, the AAP said teenagers need more sleep, and because of their sleep cycles, they can find it hard to get to sleep until 11 p.m. That means that with the 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 hours of sleep they need per night, they should not have to wake up until about 8 a.m. 

Research shows that later start times for schools can prevent car crashes by up to 70 percent but right now only about 15 percent of schools in the United States start at a time later than 8:30 a.m. throughout the year. The National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter has come out in support of later start times as well.

The only thing I do not understand is that college students, and high school students, have been waking up early for years to attend classes or work. Why is it just now that researchers are saying it’s bad for us? 

In an article in The Wall Street Journal, one of the interview subjects was a 16-year-old high school student. The student says he has to get up at 5:30 a.m. to be at the bus stop about an hour later to make his school’s 7:20 a.m. start time. He spoke about how hard it is to not fall asleep in class and how he usually does not get to sleep until 11:30 p.m. or even later when he has a big test or project. 

Now, as a current senior in college, I remember waking up at about 6 a.m. every morning in high school to make it to school for my 7:35 a.m. start time. I never went to bed before 11 p.m. unless I was sick. I did not fall asleep in class once and I never was part of a car crash on the way to school. I think this movement is just part of the ongoing sympathy for “struggling” teenagers. 

In my opinion, early start times prepare you for life and the real world. I wake up before 8 a.m. every day and many times before 7 a.m. for work on days that I do not have classes. My roommate wakes up at about 5:30 a.m. every day to get ready and leave for work. If students do not learn to wake up early and manage their sleep cycles before college and careers, it is going to be a huge culture shock to learn time management. 

The student in the WSJ article spoke about having to use two alarms to wake up every morning and how hard it was to make it through class.

I am now 22 years old and set about four alarms to wake up every morning and I still sleep through most of them sometimes. This does not mean that I need a later start time to perform better. I know many other students who set multiple alarms and still fall asleep in class sometimes. It is not a sign that the school is doing something wrong by starting early, but merely that teenagers and young adults sleep longer. 

Not only does this proposed change seem unnecessary in my eyes, but it would affect bus schedules and sports events for schools. It would also make it harder on parents who work to drop their children off at school. Pushing hours back later in the day means students would get out later, and that could further push back bedtimes as they might have sports or work to do after school. 

If we move the start times in high school back later, where will it end? Will we then push the start times back in college to help commuters travel better when we schedule our own classes? Will we then push the typical work day back later to prevent all the car crashes during morning rush hour? It is absurd to bend the system to work for better sleep cycles when they can just try to go to bed earlier to be better rested.

4 comments

  1. I teach public schools. High school students are unsupervised as well as undisciplined and many do not have parents to tell them that 10:00 p.m. is his or her bedtime. Students tell me all of the time that they were on their cell phones all night. Many students tell me they played video games all night. Changing the school time does nothing except give high school students more cell phone and video game time. What needs to happen is that parents take a page from the book of Steve Jobs who would not allow his children access to electronic trinkets except for 60 minutes per day. Many other creators and designers of electronic gadgets do not allow their children access to their gadgets.

  2. Maybe if you had gotten more sleep in your high school years you would be able to understand the research. Sleep in tomorrow and then read the research again.

  3. The info in this research is not new, it supports previous studies . Also many college students never schedule anything before 9 unless absolutely necessary.

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