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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Let them sleep, it's past time to change high school start times.

Last week tragedy hit DCPS as a West side High student was gunned down on the way to his bus stop at 6:15 in the morning. The quick thinking and actions of his bus driver, picking him up and rushing him to a fire station saved the young man's life. 

There is a lot to cover there but this piece isn't about the senseless violence, instead it's about the time the young man was shot.

Why did we have this young man walking to a bus stop at 6:15 in the morning. When did this young man and thousands like him have to get up? 5:30, maybe 5:00? 

When I worked at Ed White most of us walked around in a haze until 9:00 or so and I meant to say most of us, teachers and students alike, victims of a system that keeps us chronically sleep deprived, which is bad for everyone but especially bad for teenagers. 

From UCLA Health,

Teens are so full of potential, so full of life, so...sleepy. Research shows that most teens do not get the sleep that they need on a daily basis. Each person has their own need for sleep. This need may vary from one person to another. Teens are at an important stage of their growth and development. Because of this, they need more sleep than adults. The average teen needs about nine hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well rested.

Puberty is a time when your body begins to go through many changes. It is the stage of life when you become physically able to reproduce sexually. There are many signs that show when this process is underway. Girls see their breasts develop and have their first menstrual period. Boys start to grow facial hair and hear their voices begin to deepen. Girls have always begun to enter the stage of puberty earlier than boys. Typically, this is between the ages of 10 and 11. Boys usually enter puberty a couple years later. Today, some girls begin to show signs of puberty as early as 7 or 8 years old.
One change in the body during puberty is closely related to how you sleep. There is a shift in the timing of your circadian rhythms. Before puberty, your body makes you sleepy around 8:00 or 9:00 pm. When puberty begins, this rhythm shifts a couple hours later. Now, your body tells you to go to sleep around 10:00 or 11:00 pm.
The natural shift in a teen's circadian rhythms is called "sleep phase delay." The need to sleep is delayed for about two hours. At first, teens may appear to be suffering from insomnia. They will have a hard time falling asleep at the usual time. While they begin going to sleep later, they still need an average of nine hours of sleep at night. Because most teens have to wake up early for school, it is important for them to go to bed on time. If they go to bed late, they will be unable to get the sleep that they need. This change is a normal part of growing up. With some extra care, teens will quickly adjust to the new sleep schedule of their bodies.
If teens resist or ignore this change, they will make this time of transition very hard on their bodies. They will only hurt themselves by staying up too late at night doing homework or talking with friends. Using a lot of caffeine or nicotine will also make it hard for a teen to get quality rest. At the end of the school week, many teens are worn out from all the sleep they missed. They think that sleeping in much later on the weekend will help them catch up. This only throws their body clocks off even more. It will be even harder for them to fall asleep and wake up on time when the new school week begins.

Research shows that most teens do not get the sleep that they need on a daily basis. ... Teens are at an important stage of their growth and development. Because of this, they need more sleep than adults. The average teen needs about nine hours of sleepeach night to feel alert and well rested.

If this is the case, if kids need more sleep and need to wake up later then why do we start them behind the 8 ball? How much productivity and potential are we wasting because we insist on doing things the way we did when we didn't know any better?

From Health Line,

Early start times can negatively impact the health of young students in several ways. So why aren’t more schools shifting their schedules?

Research on ideal school start times has been around for decades, with numerous studiesfinding a correlation between later school start times and better sleep, improved attendance, decreased tardiness, less falling asleep in class, better grades, and fewer motor vehicle crashes.

It’s not a matter of coddling kids who don’t want to wake up on time for school.
It’s about a quantifiable difference in health, school performance, and safety that later school start times have been shown to make.
In fact, the evidence is so compelling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Sleep Association (ASA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the American Medical Association (AMA) have all released statements encouraging districts to make the transition to later start times.
Most recommendations indicate that schools shouldn’t start any earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Yet, across the United States, many schools continue to ring that first bell at 7:30 a.m. and earlier.
So, if later start times are healthier for students, why aren’t more districts making the change?
Even the CDC says schools should start later,
Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight (1); not engage in daily physical activity (2); suffer from depressive symptoms (2); engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs (2); and perform poorly in school (3). However, insufficient sleep is common among high school students, with less than one third of U.S. high school students sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights.
The worst part of my job, I mean other than the pay, and the constant disrespect and devaluation of my profession by Tallahassee, okay the third worst part of my job is I get up at 5:30 every morning, I have been doing it for 8 years and I have never gotten used to it and I don't think I ever will. If it's hard on me it has to be even harder on my kids whose bodies are still growing and developing.  
It's doable to, at least Hillsborough county thinks so as their high school start time in 8:30.
It's time we caught up with the times and stopped sleep walking through the day.
Here are a couple more resources explaining why sleep for our students is so important.


  1. High school in SJC starts @ 9:15.

  2. Nice blog!

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  3. High school's in Nassau County start at 9:00 AM. It's great; the students are awake, as are the teachers.