Should schools start later in the day?

Should schools start later in the day? The CDC has found that over 70% of high school students are not getting enough sleep. This is mainly due to the early start of schools conflicting with students’ circadian rhythm (the natural cycle of the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin). 

The most alarming affect of sleep deprivation on adolescents is on their health. The CDC also reported that sleep deprivation in adolescents increases the risk of both obesity and diabetes.

Additionally, adolescents with disturbed sleep report worse mental health. Researchers Roberts, Roberts, and Duong found that they reported more depression, anxiety, anger, inattention and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. 

A further effect of sleep deprivation is behavioral issues. Roberts, Roberts, and Duong also found that adolescents were reported to present with conduct problems and drug and alcohol use following sleep deprivation. Furthermore, if school start times were to be moved later in the day the release time would also move later in the day. This would minimize the time students spent at home before parents/adults got home, and may minimize poor choices made while adolescents are left unsupervised. 

And ultimately, later start times resulted in better grades in not only the first class of the day, but all classes following. (This has been proven time and time again, but a particularly interesting study on the matter was done by Carrell, Maghakian, and West.)

The affect of later start times on sleep quality is undeniable, as is the effect of sleep deprivation on students.  As such, it ultimately comes down to what the community’s priorities are. If the goal of the society is to produce healthy, well behaved, and academically successful students then there is clearly no question as to whether or not school start times should be moved back.