When Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” he may not have realized that this saying wouldn’t always apply. For today’s generation, it’s more like “Late to bed, early to rise, makes a student cranky, tired, and sleep deprived.” Early school start times, paired with late bedtimes caused by difficult classes and extracurricular activities leave many students searching for sleep.
Studies by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) show that teens are seriously in need of sleep, and a later school start time would be incredibly beneficial to teen’s health and academic performance. In a recent poll from the NSF, 60% of students said they felt tired during the school day, and 15% said they fell asleep in class.
Sleep scientists from the Foundation recommend teenagers get approximately nine hours of sleep per night, but with seven hours spent at school, plus time spent after school doing homework, participating in extracurricular activities, and occasionally socializing, there isn’t enough time in the day to get a good night’s rest before school the next morning.
Basic biology has proven that during puberty, teens’ sleep-wake cycles and circadian rhythms change due to hormones, causing them to need more sleep yet their bodies are geared to staying awake/alert much later. Many students report they simply cannot go to sleep before midnight. According to a study completed at the University of Minnesota, arranging school start times to correlate with teenagers’ ever changing sleep schedules would have a significant effect on their performance in school and overall happiness.
By pushing back the start time to 8:30 a.m., attendance rates would increase, drowsy driving (which is just as bad or worse than drunk driving,) would be reduced and student performance and grades would increase. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that over 100,000 of reported car crashes each year are caused by drowsy driving, and 1 in 7 of 16-24 year olds fall asleep at the wheel each month.
Although no teen is objecting to more sleep, parents, school faculty, and coaches are worried that later start times would mean later end times, further eating into limited after school time for sports, jobs, and homework.
If school started just 45 minutes later at 8:30 am, the school day would end between 3:30 and 3:45 pm, still allowing between seven and eight hours for homework, sports practice, and other activities.
So, while Mr. Franklin’s original words don’t really apply to today’s teenagers, with a slight tweak, and later school start times, we could say, “Late to bed, a little later to rise, makes a student happy, healthy, and not sleep deprived.”