Starting School Later has Benefits


School and sleep, the two most important words that start with “S” in every kid’s life. Going to school involves extreme mental toughness, but actually excelling in school involves much more. Teenagers aged 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70% of high schoolers don’t get enough sleep on school nights. This is affecting each and every student’s performance. Without the recommended amount of sleep each night we can’t be fully engaged and ready to learn.


Many things come from sleep deprivation that causes issues in teens. According to Ruthann Richter, a researcher at Standford School of Medicine, “Sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer myriad negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts.” To understand why teens are sleep deprived we must understand the brain of teens’ during their crucial resting hours. In a 1990 study, Richter discovered that teens have a biologic tendency to go to sleep almost 2 hours later than those under 13. Although this was discovered, highschools all around the world typically start the day at a relatively early hour.


According to the CDC, 42 states reported that most (75%-100%) of public middle and high schools started before 8:30. am. According to pediatric sleep specialist, Rafael Pelayo, MD, with the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic, this means “teens’ sleep is compressed, and they must wake up before they are physically or mentally ready. Because of this, teens lose not only their natural rhythm sleep, but hours of necessary dream-rich, rapid-eye-movement sleep, which is considered some of the deepest, most productive sleep time.” 


Getting the correct amount of sleep however, can only benefit teens, starting with increased academic outcomes. According to the same Stanford medicine study, William Dement says that because of sleep deprivation we aren’t able to gauge kids actual abilities in all academic fields. A national study showed that the National Assessment of Educational Progress math scores for eighth graders would increase as much as 8 points if schools started one hour later, which many experts say is equivalent to almost a full grade-level increase.


Another benefit to more sleep is less tardiness. 

According to Joy Wake, advocacy director for Start School Later, “Repeated studies show that starting secondary schools at 8:30 a.m. or later significantly boosts on-time attendance.”  Lastly, getting more sleep increases both mental and physical health. Teens who reported they got at least 8 hours of sleep per night were more likely to say they have good overall health, and less likely to report being depressed or using caffeine and other substances, per a study by the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota.


In essence, schools starting later would not only have a positive effect on the mental and physical health of teens all around the world, but also less sleep deprivation and increased attendance at schools.