Sleep: The Remedy for Success
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a minimum of 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night, so why is it that the AAP recorded that “87 percent of high school students in the U.S. were getting less than the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep on school nights[?]” In AAP’s opinion, it is linked to schools starting too early. The AAP recommends that high schools start no earlier than 8:30. Part of the reason this was identified to be the earliest healthy start time, is because as teens progress through puberty, their internal clock shifts back about two hours or so, causing many of them to have trouble falling asleep before 11:00. 40% of high schools in the US are fighting a losing battle with biology by starting too early.
Schools have logistical concerns about later start times, such concerns include sports and clubs that meet after school. However several schools near Radnor such as Agnes Irwin, Episcopal Academy, and the Academy of Notre Dame start as late as 8:15. Many of these schools have sports schedules even more rigorous than ours. For example, Episcopal has many athletes who are national recruits including a squash player who is second in the country in his age division and a lacrosse player who committed to a college in his freshman year. This shows that many of their sports programs are further along than ours are, but they still do not start before 8:00. Also at Episcopal, each student is required to participate in a major club or in a sport in each of the three seasons. Sports and clubs are constantly being run after school successfully showing that other schools have been able to start later, so the question from pediatricians, from students, and from parents, is why hasn’t Radnor made the change?
According to one article on startschoollater.net, in a recent study at a private high school in Rhode Island, start times were moved back just thirty minutes and the number of students achieving eight hours of sleep a night spiked by nearly 40%! With just an extra half an hour of sleep every morning, now almost two-thirds of the students to get eight hours a night. According to a recent survey at Radnor High School, out of fifty-six entries, 75% record getting seven or fewer hours of sleep each night and over 84% of these students reported that they would benefit from school being pushed back. Not only have other schools seen success by delaying start times, but students at our school believe that they would benefit greatly from this small change.
According to another article on startschoollater.net, two-thirds of high school students get less than seven hours of sleep a night. Startschoollater.net also reports that “Shifts in the sleep-wake cycle at puberty mean that most adolescents get their best sleep between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m.” It is obvious that the school day cannot start at 10:00 am as many students would prefer, however the average start time for American high schools is 7:59. So why does Radnor feel the need to start at 7:35? It is obviously not entirely a matter of after school activities, it comes down to how much the school cares about their students health. In health class students are taught that sleep is the most important thing for your body. Startschoollater.net reports that “Insufficient sleep in teens is associated with obesity, migraines, and immune system disruption and with health risk behaviors including smoking, drinking, stimulant abuse, physical fighting, physical inactivity, depression, and suicidal tendencies” and that “A major, multi-state study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked later high school start times to significant decreases in teen substance abuse, depression, and consumption of caffeinated drinks.” This is supporting everything we learn in health classes, students are more likely to practice unhealthy habits and become irritable and even violent when they consistency lack a sufficient amount of sleep. The list goes on, “When schools have delayed the start of the school day, communities have seen reduced tardiness, sleeping in class, and car crash rates, as well as improved attendance, graduation rates, and standardized test scores,” and on, “When Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming shifted its start time to 8:55 From 8:00, the number of car crashes involving teenage drivers dropped by 70%,” and on, “A study at the US Air Force Academy showed first-year students starting classes after 8 a.m. performed better not only in their first classes but throughout the day.” These are just a few of the facts explaining the benefits of later start times. Among the most important include fewer car crashes involving students, higher attendance and graduation rates, and likely most important to a school, higher test scores. The facts are in abundance and could be listed for pages upon pages, the only question is what the reaction to the facts will be. Ironic how the people advocating the importance of sleep are the same ones restricting students from getting their sleep.