Sleep and School


I recently finished a project looking at the education system and how stressed and tired high school students are all the time, and my findings were quite fascinating, so I’d like to share what I found with you.

Firstly, I’d like to start with the fact that over March Break I was up at about 8:00am every day, and I had energy, I wasn’t tired. It was partly because I was doing stuff I love, like writing posts for this blog, but also because I got up at my natural wake up time of 8:00, according to “Paul Kelley, PhD, who researches sleep and circadian rhythms at the University of Oxford,” (Association, 2016).  So I was awake, I had energy and I had a lot of natural daylight.

Most schools begin at around 8:00am, which means most students need to get up by 6:00am to catch the bus at 7:30am. However, as stated by my research schools shouldn’t start until 8:30am or later. So if that’s true why doesn’t it start later? And according to my research teens are being forced awake at times when they’re minds would rather be sleeping.

If the education system’s goal is to teach us so we can learn, why are they at the same time preventing our learning from happening? No one can function when they are tired and if you mix that with stress and increasing mental health issues amongst adolescents then it becomes a recipe for disaster.

In my view there are three issues preventing a change from occurring, and two of them are excuses. 1) Parents don’t want their kids walking to and from school in the dark, 2) there are issues with the bus schedules, and 3) there is the pressure on grades.

With the first issue, I think there are obvious and simple safety measures that can be implemented. For example, we have street lights and crosswalks for a reason.

Secondly, the bus schedules usually do a route for high school students and then elementary students. I think this should be switched because kids are naturally awake earlier than teens. It would just mean earlier end times for elementary schools, and a bigger investment in after school programs. Other than that I think this idea could really work.

Lastly, there is the huge pressure on grades and not learning, in which students are actually losing sleep to finish assignments. In my research a study found that 42% of teens lost sleep to finish assignments and in my own survey 14 of the 18 subjects claimed the same thing. The American Psychological Association (APA) study also found that teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep, but on average are only getting 7 hours. Therefore with the lack of sleep, students can’t focus in their morning classes and then are tired by the afternoon from being up so early and then there’s homework and other responsibilities and it’s such a vicious cycle that doesn’t do anyone any good.

So that’s my idea, start school later (it’s supposed to start at 10:00am), and switch the bus schedules and you might get some pretty awesome results. For example, for the schools that have tried it, there was a decrease in substance abuse, absences, and tardiness amongst students, the grades also increased, especially in their morning classes. If the benefits are so good why aren’t more schools making the switch?

I have no idea, but I know that for myself, and the students I surveyed, later start times would help us quite a lot.



One thought on “Sleep and School

  1. I remember having a similar conversation with my mum during my A-levels. I feel like during the younger years, it’s not as bad. But those 2 years of A-level, getting up at 7 every morning into a hard, draining day of studying, killed me. Some days I’d have triple chemistry with only a 45 minute break for lunch and even then we had to be into our classroom to register early. crazy.


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