After a long night of studying for a test the next day, most high school students would relish a quality night of sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that teenagers ages 13-18 get approximately 8-10 hours of sleep. However, we must ask ourselves as a society, is that number even possible? According to The Washington Post, between 2018 and 2020 the average high schooler completed approximately 2.7 hours of homework per night. In addition, many students are involved in activities outside of school, such as playing a sport or volunteering. These activities further complicate a student getting a good night of sleep. Many parents and educators attribute a student’s lack of sleep to early school start times.
In 2021, the Sleep Foundation voiced their opinion. In “How Would Later School Start Times Affect Sleep” by Eric Suni and Nilong Vyas, adolescent rest is discussed, indicating that over 70 percent of high schoolers do not get adequate sleep. The authors state that late bedtimes and early start times are detrimental to a teen’s mental and physical wellbeing. Generally, common school start times vary between 7:45 A.M and 8:15 A.M., but the AAP and American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend a start time no earlier than 8:30 A.M. There are many benefits to a later start time. The primary benefit is to allow teenager’s bodies to develop, especially during the stages of puberty. But how do school start times affect a student’s performance? Studies have proven that early start times and less sleep worsen attention in class, lower academic achievement, enhance usage of drugs, increase risk of injury, and promote behaviors such as bullying. The authors firmly argue for later start times, claiming that there is higher attendance at school, better academic performance, less daydreaming and in-class napping, and interestingly, a decrease in teen vehicle accidents. Alternatively, we have to acknowledge that there are also negative affects to a later start time, such as transportation and childcare activity conflicts.
It seems clear that start times impact high school students. For example, Jan Hoffman explores one such case in “To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In” by writing about Jilly Dos Santos, who struggles to arrive at school by 7:50 A.M. Jilly is shocked when she hears that the school board may move the start time to 7:20 A.M. She indicates that she “will die” and “drop out of school” if these changes are implemented. While Jilly’s response may be an exaggeration, it is still important to acknowledge that Jilly’s mental health may be impacted by an early start time. Students often feel stressed when faced with such an early start time, which can sometimes cause a mental health issue within a young adult.
As a student of Seton Hall Prep, I believe we are lucky with our school’s established start time. The first bell at 8:45 A.M. is a reasonable time to start school. This time provides students like me an adequate amount of time in the morning to get ready efficiently, prepare for the day, and even eat a good breakfast (sometimes!). Furthermore, the later start times allow transportation to be available for a broader group, as many students commute via train, bus, and car. In my opinion, a later start time allows more boys from different areas within New Jersey to attend The Prep. This allows The Prep to be a school enhanced with various backgrounds and cultures.
The issue of start times within schools is widespread. The effects of earlier start times are detrimental and can negatively affect a student’s physical and mental well-being. School boards, teachers, parents, and students should collaborate to establish an effective start time. The impact of an appropriate start time is certainly evident at The Prep. Hopefully every school can follow this example to benefit their students.