For the Sake of Our Wellbeing, Please Start School Later

Jieden Fenderson, Staff Writer

According to the Better Health Channel and Department of Health, the average teenager sleeps about 6.5-7.5 hours a night, and I agree with this number. You ask around and you get tired teenagers who stayed up until 1:00 doing some homework assignment. This is a pretty bad issue. Constantly getting bad sleep can correlate with bad grades, hurt relationships, and various health issues. According to the CDC, the average teenager needs about 8-10 hours of sleep each night, which is a lot more than the numbers I am hearing. And so the struggle continues, teenagers feeling woozy and drowsy constantly because of a lack of sleep, but why do we not just… start school later? This gives us more time to sleep in and sleep can do a lot for a high schooler.  

Many people say that the reason that teens do not get enough sleep is because of bad time management and use of electronics, and while that may be a factor in why teens are staying up so late, a big reason has to do with how the teenage mind is wired. The circadian rhythm is a sort of biological clock in our heads, that tells us when to eat, sleep and so on. According to KidsHealth “During adolescence, the body’s circadian rhythm is reset, telling a teen to fall asleep later at night and wake up later in the morning. This change in the circadian rhythm seems to happen because a teen’s brain makes the hormone melatonin later at night.” That is right; biology can play a part in why teenagers stay up so late and sleep in late, too. But high school start times are early. The average American student wakes up around 6-6:30 to attend school. Teenage biology, work from school, and just taking a break for the sake of personal health makes it hard to get adequate sleep with such early start times. 

 Starting school later has been implemented and proven to help high schoolers a lot. Researchers at the University of Washington conducted a study on teenagers. “This study shows a significant improvement in the sleep duration of students as a result of delaying school start times so that they are more in line with the natural wake-up times of adolescents,” said senior and corresponding author Horacio de la Iglesia, a UW professor of biology.

Two main arguments against starting school later are that it could cause issues with traffic, since most people drive to work later in the morning, and that it could affect students’ extracurricular activities. These are two major problems; however, I think if the city invested more in public transportation and public infrastructure the traffic issue would not be as bad. The roads in Issaquah are pretty clogged in the mornings simply because we have too many drivers and too few roads. Starting school later for high schoolers could conflict with the time that elementary school starts, and thus could create a bus shortage.  Even so, more investment in education infrastructure, such as more buses and higher wages for bus drivers, can fix this issue. For extracurriculars, we could possibly shorten school time. An example of this is Finland, where the school lasts about 5 hours, much shorter than ours. Despite this, Finland ranks third in the World Education Rating and a majority of students are more satisfied there compared to here in the USA. European schools are different from American schools as school is mandatory for all American kids, but we should strive to have our schools be more student-friendly like Finland’s is. Shortening the school time is complicated because it is state law to have students in school for a specific amount of time, but perhaps we could push for this law to be changed and have high school times shorter. These are not perfect solutions, but if there’s a will, there’s a way. If the government made a push for having students sleep more, I think that they could find solutions to these issues.  

Overall, I see the lack of sleep torment millions of American students every day, myself included. We can make later school times work if we put in the effort, and we will most likely see healthier students ready for their day at school.