School Shouldn’t Start Later

Fiona Zhao, Staff Writer

There is a common belief that a vast majority of adolescents lack the scientifically recommended 9-10 hours of nightly sleep. In an effort to combat and prevent the harmful biological effects of sleep deprivation, which range from difficulty handling stress to potential obesity, various debates and suggestions have emerged. Through promoting later school start times, experts essentially aim to improve student productivity. However, postponing school hours is simply not the viable solution to increasing students’ sleep, as it merely promotes what its supporters have intended to prevent – through pushing back sleep times, a student’s quality of sleep, productivity, and overall well-being drastically declines.

Should school hours be pushed back, all students’ schedules would shift along with the change. The common argument is that later hours suit the average adolescent’s inner circadian rhythms, which deem adolescents best functioning starting around 9 or 10 a.m. Yet arguably far more important is the quantity of sleep students receive. Along with later school hours, extracurricular activities, after-school sports, completion of homework, and the available hours of sleep – the root cause of the change – are inevitably pushed back.

At best, students are allowed the same hours of sleep as before, and damage is still done; the quality of sleep is ultimately diminished. As the old adage goes, “one hour’s sleep before midnight is worth two after.”

“The time of night when you sleep makes a significant difference in terms of the structure and quality of sleep,” said Dr. Matt Walker, head of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at UC Berkeley. In effect, students that sleep later display more severe symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Along with the decrease in both quantity and quality of sleep that results from postponing school hours comes the decrease in student productivity. Aside from the many alarming long-term detriments to health, including a weakened immune system and potential obesity, sleep deprivation results in cognitive decline. Students would simply enter a vicious cycle that further lessens already sparse sleep times.

Postponing school hours disrupts the delicate century-old and institutionalized foundation of society. Along with students, the schedules of teachers, staff workers, bus drivers, and parents are shifted to accommodate the change in school hours. The familiar schedule of parents sending their children to school before driving to their own workplace would be disrupted, resulting in less work hours, decreased work productivity, and a detriment to the economy. Rearranging bus pick-ups times, sports practice times, among other inevitable interruptions, proves both costly and inconvenient.

Ultimately, postponing school is a well-intentioned but illogical suggestion to increasing students’ sleep times and productivity. Waking up early in the morning might be painful, but it is the least we can do to promote healthier versions of ourselves.