We’ve all felt it—the desire to stay warm and cozy in bed when the alarm sounds off before the sun comes up. Yet, after a snooze or two, we usually convince ourselves to extract our bodies from the covers, brush our teeth and begin the day.
Teenagers in particular often find it difficult to rise during the early morning hours before school, especially after having stayed up late the night before studying, tweeting or playing video games. Among other social and environmental factors, teenagers’ sleep-wake cycles require them to have more sleep than adults and involve circadian rhythms that make them get tired much later in the evening.
Over the last several years, a growing number of high schools across the country—in places like Long Beach, Calif., Stillwater, Okla., Decatur, Ga., and Glens Falls, N.Y.—have moved their schools’ starting bell from 7 or 8 a.m. to later in the morning. Organizations like Start School Later are working to shift school hours later for the sake of the maximum health and safety of students.
One recent study from the University of Minnesota, conducted over three years at eight schools, found that a later start time allowed “for more than 60 percent of students to obtain at least eight hours of sleep per school night.” The benefits to students were numerous, including better attendance rates, mental health improvements, a significant decline in the number of car crashes, and better grades and test scores.
The prospect of more schools adopting such schedule changes prompts some backlash, since later start times mean less time in the afternoon for homework and extracurriculars. Sports practices would likely end later and possibly interfere with morning routines, parents’ work schedules and student jobs.
However, the benefits might outweigh the drawbacks. Proper sleep not only contributes directly to alertness levels and academic success, it also ensures higher performance during physical activity. Some research even suggests consistent adequate shut-eye aids significantly in injury prevention.
The New York Times