Should Opening Bells Be Pushed Back?

It’s more than important to catch up on the right amount of sleep, but are school times affecting the amount of z’s our American youth gets each night? The effort to start high school classes later has been debated for nearly 20 years and it has recently been taken into action across the nation.

With only 4% of American public high schools that have adjusted their school times to start at 9 a.m. or later (National Center on Education Statistics 2011-2012), you could say that this debate has not been so successful, taking into consideration that the other 96% of public high schools have not been convinced. Though, the school boards should focus their attention on this particular issue and consider starting school later based on the beneficial factors. If school times are pushed back, students will be able to rest up and be more prepared to take on their day.

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The amount of sleep an average teen requires is 9.25 hours, with a minimum of 8.5 hours. However, only 15% of teens claim that they get 8.5 hours of sleep every night (National Sleep Foundation).

The other 85% of American teens are deprived of sleep and are left with no other choice but to attend school with a mind that is not fully capable to learn. “Quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning and memory” (Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School). This states that information is better absorbed with the more sleep one gets. Thus proving that teenagers, who do not receive enough sleep every night, do not have the ability to take in the information they are taught in class. This is then followed by the incapability to understand lessons and leads to lower test scores.

As a sophomore in a high school that starts at 8 in the morning, it is difficult for me to pay attention in my morning classes. Not to mention the hassle of getting out of bed and being ready by the time the first bell rings. I often feel tired and catch myself “spacing out” in the middle of a lesson. As a matter of fact, 28% of high school students report that they fall asleep in class once a week (Rush University Medical Center). And 14% of them have arrived late or missed school due to over-sleeping (2006 Sleep in America poll). Why don’t teens just go to bed earlier? Being a teenager means going through something called puberty.

Research shows that at this point in life, melatonin (a hormone that is directly related to the sleeping and waking cycles in all living things (plants, animals, humans, etc)) is released at a later time (National Public Radio). In other words, teenagers do not feel drowsy until about 11 p.m. due to the later release of this hormone. With the progressive development of new technology, it doesn’t help with the situation.

Smart phones and tablets, which this generations’ youth has grown reliant to, let out a blue light that tricks the mind into thinking that it’s still daytime. (Researcher Zoltowski from the American Chemical Society). This slows the release of melatonin and pushes the time us teens feel drowsy even later than 11 p.m. Sure they could just put down the phones, but come on now, have you ever tried to take a teenager’s phone from them? It’s like trying to take a piece of raw meat away from a lion: scary.

Some things that also need to be taken into consideration are the cons to starting classes later. A few conflicts that may occur are the times students are released, after school sports and clubs, and a later time for students to work on their homework. But, Academy School District 20 in Colorado was able to push their school times back by transporting high school students with middle school students. Not only did this resolve their transportation dilemma, but it saved the district some money. And rather than assigning homework for after school, taking the time to learn the information and do in-class work seems to be a better alternative.

This would still leave enough time for clubs and sports after school hours. Overall, the change in school times has positively affected students. They have been able to catch up on more sleep, there were a decrease in tardies, and teachers have seen an improvement in academic performances. Though, it’s important to remember that it is more of a community decision rather than a nationwide one. This is because a change in school start times will vary, depending on the area.

Based on your situation, would you like to see a change in the times you start school? Or do the start times now do you justice?