School or Sleep?

Each morning, high school students across the country wake up to a darkened sky before sluggishly getting into a car or bus, still stuck in a drowsy daze. Teens arrive at school with circles under their eyes and yawns almost as big as their stuffed backpacks. 

This has become the definition of “ready to learn”: through the lenses of sleep-deprived eyes and driven by the thoughts sloth-speeded minds. 

Sleep-deprivation does nothing but increase risk of obesity, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor performance academically. Students already have strenuous amounts of homework on top of other out of school extracurriculares, all that has to get done before they can close their eyes. Schools that start early encourage dependence on caffeine, which has enough health-related problems in itself. As teens progress in age, their biological rhythms change, leading to naturally falling asleep later. According to their biological clocks, teenagers are in fact programmed to fall asleep close to 11 P.M., and in order to accommodate a healthy amount of sleep (8-10 hours), teens should be waking up at seven at the earliest. Yet, some students have to deal with the treachery of making it to a bus stop well before 6:30 A.M.  

It’s simple: science points to the benefits of starting school later. This will allow growing generations a better amount of sleep, letting them develop and reset overnight. General risk for any health problems will go down, and overall academic performance will go up. With a good amount of rest, students are able to feel more restored and fresh, enabling them to learn with a clean mindset. The halls won’t be overrun by drained zombies anymore and teachers may finally be able to make eye contact with students’ eyes, rather than their drooping eyelids. 

There may be hope for the future. Luckily, we see that some schools are acknowledging the science-based facts and are making a change in favor of the people. Movement in New Jersey has led to schools trying out an 8:30 A.M. starting time. Massachusetts is also in the works of taking a look at the effects of the early start times on their students. Some districts in our very own Capital Region are thinking of pushing back starting times, including Niskayuna, Bethlehem, East Greenbush, and Guilderland. Next year, these schools are trying to get times to start around 8-8:30 A.M., compared to the grueling starting times of around 7:30 most of them had prior.  Even our new and upcoming middle school is pushing back its starting time, allowing more students to come to school rejuvenated. 

Starting in September of 2020, Shaker High School will be starting five minutes earlier.