Commentary: School should start later in the day

UP+EARLY.+Students+in+Diana+Gardenhours+class+begin+their+work+at+7%3A45+am.+Research+shows+that+a+later+start+time+would+be+better+for+students.+

Katie Carmon

UP EARLY. Students in Diana Gardenhour’s class begin their work at 7:45 am. Research shows that a later start time would be better for students.

Regan Tebrock, Staff Writer

Imagine waking up for school, rested and ready to learn. Imagine when somebody asks “how are you” not immediately responding “tired”. Imagine if school started later.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children aged 13 through 18 get at least eight to ten hours of sleep each night. Most teens, however, get less than eight hours of sleep. Some would say that these teens should simply go to bed earlier.

While this is good advice, teenagers often go to bed later and wake up later because it’s natural. The circadian rhythm is the cycle that lets people know when they are tired and wakes them up when they are rested. During puberty, the cycle gets longer and teens have to sleep more.

Schools, however, don’t really take that fact into account when making their schedules. In many places, school bus routes start at 5:00 am. If teens get up around 4:00 am to get ready, and they go to bed early, they would have to go to bed around 8:00 pm. Their bodies, however, are simply not set up for that.

Some students don’t even get the opportunity to do homework until 8:00 pm. If they go to bed that early, without homework complete, they will start to see their grades drop. For other students, 8:00 pm might be the only time they get to relax and enjoy themselves.

According to “Health Direct”, relaxing reduces stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression. Later school start times can also save lives. Icy roads and tired, drowsy drivers are a recipe for disaster.

According to the “Robert Wood Johnson Foundation”, the Teton County School Board in Wyoming, for example, moved the Jackson Hole High School start time to 8:55 am and car crashes involving teens went down by 70%.

Then there’s the problem of kids walking to school, or even waiting for the bus, in the dark. They are obviously at risk of being hit by tired drivers who are not paying attention. Despite headlights, the drivers might not be able to see them.

Then there’s REM sleep. REM, or rapid eye movement, is a process during which memory combining happens, mostly during the last few hours of sleep. It is important to areas in the brain that store memory. It also affects learning, which is why people often perform poorly when they are not getting enough sleep.

Not getting enough sleep also can affect behavior. Less sleep can make people more stressed, anxious and even show symptoms of depression. Getting better sleep will also help limit behavior outbursts and the chance of students falling asleep during class. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight and even smoke and do drugs.

When students get enough sleep, they are less likely to be late to school because of oversleeping, which will reduce the stress of making up work that they have missed. It will also help students have better attendance, because some students just stay home if they have overslept. That will also help eliminate the stress of making up work.

Also, when students don’t get enough sleep, they engage in less physical activities, which can lead to poor health if they don’t exercise. Students may actually really like a physical activity, like football, but would never know because they didn’t try. Colleges also have athletic scholarships and a student might be amazing at a sport but never get one because they didn’t ever try that sport.

“Startschoollater.net” states that “Over 10% of high schools currently start before 7:30 a.m., 43% start before 8 a.m. and under 15% start before 8:30 am.” Duke University does not start school before 8:30 am, and it has a 95% graduation rate. Starting school later will, overall, have a positive impact on students and teachers.

It is time for Kingsport City Schools to give this change some serious thought.

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