By Katherine Han
There have been countless nights when I have not gotten enough sleep to fuel me for a whole day of school. It starts with a large load of homework, a limited amount of time to finish it all, and barely enough motivation to get through it all. By the time I’m ready to go to bed, it’s often already 11:00pm, or possibly even into the am’s. The next morning, when I finally muster up enough strength to drag my body out of my bed, I can always feel my eyes slowly drifting back to sleep, my brain starting to follow. Schools should push back the start time by at least 30 minutes in order to offer students a chance to get more sleep which would largely improve students’ daytime behaviors and health.
The study “Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior” was conducted by Judith Owens, Katherine Belon, and Patricia Moss in order to “examine the impact of a 30-minute delay in school start time on adolescents’ sleep, mood, and behavior” (Owens 1). Adolescents experience many biological, environmental, and social changes which affect their sleep patterns. However, adolescents’ sleep needs do not decrease, and they still need about 9 to 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night. The participants of this survey were students from grades 9 through 12 who attended a coeducational, independent boarding school in Rhode Island. This study was conducted through two surveys and an experiment. The students took a survey on their sleep habits before the experiment and after. For the experiment, the school pushed back the start time at the school from 8:00 to 8:30. In order to not extend the school day due to the later start time, all nonacademic activities were “reduced by 5 to 10 minutes” (2). A total of 225 students completed the survey. The results from before the experiment showed a significant effect of grade level on students’ sleep durations. Juniors and seniors received significantly less sleep than freshmen and sophomores; there was nearly a 40-minute difference in the sleep durations between the freshmen and seniors. In the survey before the experiment, a large percentage of students also reported that they felt too tired or unmotivated to do schoolwork, play sports, or socialize due to their lack of sleep. This survey also showed that depressed moods during the daytime correlated with school night sleep amounts. However, after the experiment, students rated themselves as “less depressed and more motivated to participate in a variety of activities” (5). There was an overall positive effect on students’ moods due to delaying the start time.
Students are often sacrificing sleep in order to finish their homework, or to cram in another hour of studying for the big test the next day. The objective of the study, “To Study or to Study? The Academic Costs of Extra Studying at the Expense of Sleep,” conducted by Cari Gillen-O’Neel, Virginia W. Huynh, and Andrew J. Fuligni, focuses on how “nightly variations in adolescents’ study and sleep time are associated with academic problems on the following day” (Gillen-O’Neel et al 1). It is very common for adolescents to be sleep deprived. In high school, especially, this can be problematic for the students’ health and academic life. The experimenters recruited freshmen from three Los Angeles public high schools to study these students during their sophomore and senior years in high school. The participating students completed an initial questionnaire which assessed each student’s’ demographic information. Then, each student received daily checklists that they completed every night before bed for two weeks. Through the study, the experimenters found that the “study time did not change across the years of high school” (4), and that “study time became increasingly associated with academic problems” (5) throughout the course of high school. The biggest takeaway from this study is that if a student sacrifices sleep in order to study more, he or she will have “more trouble understanding material taught in class and be more likely to struggle on an assignment or test the following day” (7).
Sleep is an essential part of every adolescents’ life. It’s what fuels us for the school day, and what keeps our bodies and brains healthy. Schools should consider pushing back start times in order to allow adolescents to obtain more sleep because this would largely benefit their daytime behaviors. Many, many studies have shown that adolescents are commonly sleep deprived, yet little to no action has been done to change this. It’s important that we start taking small steps towards helping adolescents achieving the 9 hours of sleep they need.
Gillen-O’Neel, Cari and Huynh, Virginia W. “To Study or to Sleep? The Academic Costs of
Extra Studying at the Expense of Sleep.” Child Development, vol. 84, no. 1, 2013, pp.
Owens, Judith A, et al. “Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and
Behavior.” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, vol. 164, no. 7, 2010, pp. 608-614.