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Would UC High Students Benefit From a Later Start Time?: Point

Mina Orlic, Sports Editor

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   This generation of teenagers find themselves waking up much earlier than they would prefer in order to make it to school on time. We’re awake before the sun even comes up. Yet, after years of debate, schools are still undecided when it comes to later school start times. Schools should initiate a later start time, because of teenage biological needs, students’ ability to focus more during later classes, and students’ mental health.

   A teenager is reported to need nine to nine and a quarter hours of sleep in order to function properly. Numerous surveys show that the average teenager between ages 15 and 17 only gets seven hours of sleep, sometimes even less. According to the ABC Science website, an adolescent’s circadian cycle — the natural rhythm of the body that tells you when to wake up and fall asleep — is shifted by one to two hours due to an increase in pubertal hormones (scienceabc.com). Naturally, our circadian cycle isn’t the only thing that keeps students up until the early hours of the morning. With after-school extracurricular activities, sports, crazy amounts of homework, and an early school start time, it’s no surprise that teenagers are so sleep deprived. The National Sleep Foundation website states, “…intrinsic developmental changes play a role in delayed sleep patterns in adolescents. This biological shift sets the stage for other social and environmental conditions that make it easier for these adolescents to stay awake at night and wake up sleep deprived. The effects of changing sleep patterns are compounded by the demands older students face in academics, extracurricular activities, social opportunities, after-school jobs, and other obligations” (sleepfoundation.org). One of the ways to make sure students get more sleep is to push school start times back.

   Sleep deprivation is no fun to battle while trying to pay attention in class. Trying to focus on what the teacher is saying while struggling to keep your eyes open is arguably one of high school’s greatest challenges. An article found in the online US National Library of Medicine explained, “Total sleep deprivation impairs attention and working memory… partial sleep deprivation is found to influence attention, especially vigilance. Both attention and working memory are linked to the functioning of frontal lobes. Since the frontal areas are vulnerable to sleep deprivation, it can be hypothesized that both attention and working memory are impaired during prolonged wakefulness” (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).  Sophomore Orlena Morris said, “As someone who has a sleep disorder, any extra sleep I can get to would help me do better in school.” If students were given even an extra half hour of sleep in the morning, they would have a better chance of focusing, especially in first period classes.

   Even though teenagers are generally viewed as moody and irritable, there’s science that says mental health directly correlates with sleep. An article in The Huffington Post states, “A study of nearly 28,000 suburban high school students, published earlier this year [2015] in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, found that each hour of lost sleep is associated with a 38 percent increased risk of feeling sad or hopeless and a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts” (huffingtonpost.com).  Moreover, research shows that lack of sleep affects mood, especially depression, which can in turn lead to lack of sleep. To combat this vicious cycle, sleep experts recommend that teens prioritize sleep (sleepfoundation.org). Imagine all the moodiness and tension we could eliminate from classrooms by just pushing back the start time by a measly half hour.

   Most high school students are already pressured to apply themselves and do well in school, but when their bodies are running on little to no sleep, it’s hard to be high functioning and attentive. Adding even just thirty extra minutes of sleep would do wonders for both our physical and mental health, as well as help change the atmosphere in classrooms for the better.

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