School Start Times: Too Early?

You are in second period math class when your eyes start to feel heavy. You doze off and are suddenly awakened when your teacher is calling your name. You barely got any sleep last night because you stayed up till one am to study for the science test that you have fourth period. Every morning you wake up at six am for school, so you only got five hours of sleep. Is this enough? And how can this time be increased?

The early school start times can affect student’s mental health, ability to perform in school, and physical wellbeing. Teenagers are the age group that is least likely to get the amount of sleep that they need. On average, they need nine and a half hours of sleep to be able to function properly. 

“I do not get enough sleep at night,” said Molly Meehan, a senior at Fairfield Warde High School. “I usually get about five or six hours a night.”

Many teenagers feel the need to overbook their schedules, committing to many after school activities. This could be because of the pressures of society when it comes to building a college resume or having a social life. All these activities can be very overwhelming for students while also balancing everything else. 

This is the main reason students go to bed late, because of after school activities, family and friend obligations, and homework. A student may have up to three hours of homework and feel the pressure from themselves, parents, and teachers to complete it. But with this in addition to sports, music, and family events, this could be a lot for students to handle. 

However, they need their sleep because when well-rested, it is easier for teenagers to deal with the stress. Also, it helps them solve problems inside and outside the classroom, for example, on their assignments and in life. Their performance on tests and other activities are also enhanced when teenagers get more sleep. Many teenagers complain about being tired during the day.

“I begin to fall asleep or doze off in class,” Meehan said. “My mind begins to drift, and that’s when I lose focus of what we are learning.”

Sleep deprivation also causes greater concern when it affects teenagers’ mental health. Students that get less sleep are at risk for depression and other disorders. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the teenage brain is tricked into thinking that they are more awake at night. This is because of their sleep patterns. Students usually go to bed at later times, some as late as one am. This causes their circadian rhythm, the process of melatonin being released, to be off or delayed, causing them to fall asleep later. Because it is released later at night, it also does not stop being released until later in the morning, causing students to feel tired during the day. 

One solution that schools around Fairfield Country have been pushing for, is later school start times. School sets a routine for students: wake up, go to school, go to practice, come home, study, eat dinner, maybe study more, and then go to bed. Altering the school schedule could allow students to get to bed early and sleep longer in the morning.

In Connecticut, Newtown, Wilton, and Norwalk Public Schools are all districts that have made the change for their middle and high schools. The big push for this is so that students can have an easier time focusing and actually be able to retain the information that they learned throughout the school day. 

However, there are a few concerns that people have with starting school later. Fairfield Public Schools tried to push school start times back, however faced many problems These include, the safety of students and families, pushing back sports and other after school activities, and the opportunities for students to get a job after school to help pay for things.

“Our school start times now are exhausting,” said Emily Johnson, who is a junior at Fairfield Warde High School. “It affects everyone’s overall well being. 

But what is more important, student’s health and performance or sports and after school activities? 

“If school start times were to be pushed back to a later time, students would be able to sleep more and feel more energized during the day,” said Meehan for a final comment.

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