Sleepy and Stressed Students: School Start Time Debate


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Close up of alarm clock, woman in background.

Marissa Robinson, Author

Everyone knows the old saying, “the early bird catches the worm.” But this saying doesn’t always apply, especially for teenagers. Many students could only imagine getting up later and feeling more refreshed. 

This dream is a reality for some students. Schools in North Dakota and Alaska start after the recommended time of 8:30. Only about 15% of high schools nationwide start school after 8:30. 

Some may suggest that students need to wake up earlier because it teaches them how to be responsible and prepares them for adulthood. But teenagers are in a prime state of development and need at least 8 hours of sleep or more. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teenagers aged 13 to 18 years should regularly sleep 8 to 10 hours per day for good health. 

Sleep is a big contributing factor in high school students’ lives. Since the early 1990s, researchers and health professionals started discovering that early start times are harming children. When students have an earlier start time, depriving them of adequate sleep, they are more at risk in the future to have an increase in mental health issues, suicide, and car accidents.  

The extra few hours of sleep that students could receive from later school start times may have a positive effect on many issues. Data from states like North Dakota have proved that when school times are moved later, tardiness, truancy, absenteeism, and overall school drop-out rates have declined. Improvements of academic performances increased because teenagers are getting more adequate sleep, thus providing them to be more alert and focused in class.  

As a student, it may seem biased of me to favor changing school times to later, but with all the facts, it’s too hard to pass up the idea. Teachers have commented that when start times are later, students seem to be less moody and more alert in discussions.  

Later start times seem to have more overall positive changes rather than negatives. This endless debate and conversion may only continue for year to come, but hopefully one day, other states will join the movement too.