We have all been there, the time is 6 am and you are lying in bed reconsidering the school system and every choice you made leading up to the moment that forces you to rise from the comfortable bed and go to school. You drag your way to school and through the first lessons trying to listen to what the teacher says as you almost fall back asleep. As I said, we’ve all been there but it does not have to be like this.
By having school start as early as it does we are missing out on a school with students that are attentive, alert and less stressed. You don’t have to take my word for it though, sleep researcher Wendy Troxel says in her paper Why school should start later for teens that by waking up our teenagers before their biological clock tells them they are ready we are literally robbing them of their dreams, the type of sleep most associated with learning, memory consolidation and emotional processing.
This means that the part of our brain associated with learning is directly affected by the amount of sleep we get. This might sound obvious and unimportant but this means that the people choosing when we start in the morning and therefore how many hours of sleep we get are also choosing at what level our learning capabilities will be that day. Therefore I think that it is the responsibility of the people making our schedules to make sure that we get the amount of sleep we need to perform our best because how can they judge us if they are consciously handicapping our ability to learn.
Now you might ask well how much sleep do we actually need as teenagers, well according to the National Sleep Foundation teens should sleep 10 hours per night to function at their best. If our first lesson in the morning starts at 8 then you might have to wake up at 6 – 6:30 for you to get 10 hours of sleep that night you would have to fall asleep at 8 which is frankly ridiculous. You might say that students just have to go to bed earlier and they will get the sleep they need, but it does not work like that since the biological clocks of teens are delayed compared to that of other people. This means that the sleep hormone melatonin is not released until times often as late as 11 for teens. Because the people that make these schedules are adults they are going to make it for times that makes sense to them but it does not make sense to make the times for people that are 1:30 in the school.
Now after you have heard me talk about the importance of sleep and the unfairness inherent in the schedule making process, would you not agree that we should delay school starting times by at least an hour? So let’s not stand idly by as our teachers suppress our true potential, or we might be punished by it for the rest of our lives.