The alarm goes off at six am and the typical high school student is barely able to open their eyes. It is time to get up and prepare for a full day at school, about eight hours. Most teenagers, according to the National Sleep Foundation, will only get about six hours of sleep since they tend to stay up until midnight (“Should schools start later in the day?”). After getting ready, many students look forward to a nap in their first hour class despite the information they will miss. Teenagers seem to always have had trouble getting up in the morning, even earning the title of lazy from their parents. However, recent research on adolescent sleep patterns has produced a biological explanation for this tendency. This raises a serious question: why are high schools starting early in the morning when teenagers are biologically programmed to sleep in? For most cases, school start time has not been conformed to fit student physiological needs simply because of transportation issues.
Fifty six percent of students report being tired throughout the school day, which can lead to missed information and confusion (Wysong). According to this statistic, over half the students in class are not going to achieve their maximum learning potential in school. In order to avoid this problem, a teenager's brain typically needs to sleep from 11:00 pm to 8:00 am (“High schools starting later to help sleepy teens”). However, most high schools require students to be in class as early as 7:15 or 7:30 am. As a result, many adolescents simply do not have the opportunity to get enough rest. Changing the traditional school time to start later in the day will benefit adolescent sleep cycles, promote learning, and prevent disease by regulating the body. Ideally, teenagers would begin school about two hours later well rested and prepared to learn.
Adolescents have a special need for sleep, requiring nine-ten hours of sleep per night in order to achieve adequate sleep. For students waking up at six a.m., that means they need to get to bed at about eight p.m. However, research shows that is abnormal to teenagers’ circadian rhythm. Unlike those of adults, the sleep cycles of adolescents are relatively fixed and extremely difficult to change. In 1976, researchers at Stanford University began conducting a study that tested the ability of teenagers to adjust to earlier times. Although the students had to rise earlier, they could not get to sleep any earlier the night before. As a result, some students actually developed narcoleptic-like symptoms that made it very difficult for them to stay awake in school (Blakeslee “2 Studies Suggest Sleep is Vital in Consolidating Memories”). This is because the sleep hormone melatonin is released at a later time during puberty, which affects the teenagers’ ability to get to sleep (Wysong).
According to these findings, the traditional school schedule disables teens from receiving adequate sleep and can lead to sleep deprivation. By changing the...