Does High School Start Too Early?

Why some schools are letting their students sleep in.

In 2016, several high schools in Washington state pushed back their start time by almost an hour. That extra hour of sleep made a huge difference. Students reported earning higher grades, and absentee rates plummeted. Now, some Florida schools are following suit. Read on to learn why.

Teens and Sleep: What the science says
At this point in your life, your body and mind are going through massive growth spurts. To help your body keep up with all the extra work, doctors say teens need at least nine hours of sleep each night.

What’s at stake if you don’t get enough shut-eye? Studies show sleep-deprived teens are more likely to get into car accidents and suffer academically. Sleep deprivation also makes it harder to concentrate and can lead to anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide.

How to overcome your night owl tendencies
If you find it hard to fall asleep early, you’re not alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics says people your age are biologically programmed to stay up late.
But if your school starts super early, you’re going to have to find a way to overcome your natural night owl tendencies. Here are some tips to help you fall asleep earlier:

Cut back on caffeine. It’s not just in your favorite latte. There’s caffeine in chocolate too.

Go out in the sun in the morning. It will help regulate your body’s biological clock.

Take a 30- to 45-minute nap before dinner. It’s better than sleeping in, which can throw off the body’s sleep cycle.

Get plenty of exercise. Exercising one or two hours before bed will help your brain wind down.

Don’t play on your phone or computer before bedtime. The light from the screen messes up the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep.

If you can’t fall asleep early because you have too much homework, perhaps you can drop one of your after-school activities so you can start your homework earlier in the day. It’s not giving up; it’s taking care of yourself.

Finally, if all of the tips above don’t work, consider going in for a checkup. Your doctor can screen you for common teen sleep disorders.

“In high school, I thought our classes started too early. Most jobs don’t require you to be at work by 7 a.m., so I don’t think high school should start that early. If classes started a half hour or hour later, it would set a more realistic schedule and help students better prepare for college and real life.”

Kendall Schlitt, 18, freshman at the University of Florida, graduate of Vero Beach High School

Make it Possible
Think your school starts too early? Talk to your guidance counselor about starting a petition to send to your school board.

 

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