School start times have been receiving attention across the nation since the mid-1990s (Editorial). Many school districts have considered the benefits of later start times, others have already made the leap of starting classes later in the day, while others are still reluctant to change schedules, questioning if there is any noticeable difference in academic achievement to be seen. However, almost all the school districts that have made changes thus far have reported benefits not only in student performance and achievement, but also in overall student attitude (Gormly). The reason for this is linked to teenagers’ circadian rhythm: the “biological rhythm that governs our sleep-wake cycles” (Carrell 4). In order for students to achieve academic success, schools should push back start times to better accommodate teenagers’ circadian rhythm.
While the push for later school start times has many supporters, some fail to believe that the positive benefits outweigh the negative. Beginning school later in the morning requires a shift in the schedule as a whole—causing teachers, coaches, bus drivers, and parents to drastically shift their schedules as well (Editorial). A shift in the schedule would cause financial complications for school districts. For instance, extra transportation services may be needed to accommodate a shift in the schedule (Editorial). Some school districts remain reluctant to change start times, despite the mental and physical evidence that supports the benefits of later classes.
Some students may not be as affected by sleep rhythms as others, but for many, staying awake in class is a daily struggle. Recent surveys have reported that nearly twenty-five percent of high school students fall asleep during class an average of once per week (Carrell 1). This percentage could easily decrease with a change in scheduling.
Around the age of thirteen, the body experiences a change in its circadian rhythm, thus affecting the body’s sleep patterns (“Relying;” Carrell 4). Daytime drowsiness increases, as the circadian rhythm causes a shift toward “owl-like” tendencies, leading to teenagers’ later bed times and later rise times in the morning (Carrell 4). This shift in the circadian rhythm is why teenagers show difficulty in going to bed early, stay up late into the night, and sleep late in the mornings if allowed (“Circadian”). This increasing need for sleep reaches its maximum level around the age of thirteen and decreases each year by roughly fourteen minutes until the age of twenty (“Relying”).
During adolescence, the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to activate the sleep process, does not begin until eleven at night and its production ends around eight in the morning (Carrell 4). This means the body won’t become physically tired until melatonin is produced (Carrell 4). “Therefore, waking up a teenager at seven a.m. is equivalent to waking up an adult at four a.m.” (Carrell 4). This shift explains...