Later School Start Times: A Cure for Sleep Deprivation

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17 December 2018 School start times need to be pushed back to help teens live healthier and more productive lives. Almost everybody suffers from lack of sleep on a daily basis but teens are more sleep deprived than anyone else. This is because teens require eight and a half to ten hours of sleep every night.

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In comparison adults need seven-eight hours of sleep. Less than 20% of teens get enough sleep every night leading to problems that can harm a teenager’s development. Many teenagers live crazy, busy lives. Teenagers have extracurricular activities, volunteering, homework, jobs, and a social life outside of school. Dr. Harvey Moldofsky, who is the medical director for Sleep Disorders Clinic of the Centre for Sleep and Chronobiology, describes teenagers lives in an accurate fashion: We live in a time of time famine (qtd. in Wasowicz 1). School start times should be pushed back to help students with sleep deprivation problems such as driving while drowsy, low concentration in the classroom, and even to help prevent severe, life threatening medical conditions.

Many people take sleep for granted, however Dr. Judith Owens believes, Sleep is not optional. It’s health imperative, like eating and breathing Lack of sleep could be fatal (qtd. in Brody 2). She even goes on to say that driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk. Lack of sleep causes poor concentration in school causing students unnecessary stress in many teens. Many even experience ulcers, heart problems, obesity, depression, and many other health problems because of sleep deprivation. Scientists and parents’ theories on teen sleep are very different. While many parents just assume their kids are lazy, scientists say that melatonin is the one to blame. Melatonin is the hormone that your body makes to help you sleep. Scientists say that we all have an internal clock that puts us on a rhythm of sleep patterns. This is called our circadian rhythm. As we grow older our circadian rhythm naturally shifts around. Teenagers experience the Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. This means that teens are wired to stay up later and sleep until late in the morning. This is one of the many reasons why school should start at later times.

Early school start times lead to drowsy teen drivers. Driving drowsy is the same as driving drunk. One expert did a study on schools with different start times in Virginia. The school in Virginia Beach, which starts at 7:20, experienced a 41% higher crash rate than the Chesapeake schools, which started at 8:40. Dr. Robert Vorona has argued many times that later school start times will result in more alert drivers. Sleep affects your reaction rate, decision making, and impulse control which is why driving while drowsy is very dangerous. Traffic cops say that 35,000 collisions a year in America are caused by sleepy drivers.

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