Sleepy Schools

Why are early start times are so bad for students?

By Camilia Saulino, Reporter

Tons of coffee, multiple alarms, heavy eyelids in first period classes, forcing yourself out of bed. These are things that I hear about and experience frequently in a school district with classes starting at 8:15.

At first glance it may not seem like 8:15 is such a bad time to start. But I, along with many other students, have to take public transportation to school. On top of getting ready in the morning and making lunch, breakfast, and eating, that’s a total of one to two hours before school that we have to wake up (depending on how quick you are). Students who are going to bed at an average of 10 to 11 p.m., usually a cause of extracurricular activities, sports, and/or homework, shouldn’t be having to wake up at six and seven a.m.

“The adolescent brain has this sleep latency. It’s not ready to go to bed until later and later … whatever feels like the normal bedtime shifts back a couple of hours, but the wake time is the same – or earlier, because of our schools,” said Family Physician Brenda Brischetto. She adds, “I think most people are staying up later –  and it’s for a variety of reasons – some of it’s school activities sometimes it’s homework, sometimes it’s that they’re on their social media. So there’s lots of reason why kids stay up later, but it’s biological that your brain isn’t actually ready to go to bed until later.”

When I polled my followers on Instagram, 75 percent of the 210 PPS students that answered said that they gotten seven hours of sleep or less on the average school night. The National Sleep Foundation says that teenagers should be getting eight to ten hours of sleep per night, and it’s even higher for athletes.

Not only is the problem that students aren’t getting enough sleep, but our weekday sleep patterns are different from our weekend sleep patterns, so it really hurts our biological clock and sleep quality.

“I think later start times would improve my life because I’m more productive in the morning and would be able to sleep more, eat nutritious breakfasts, and finish homework. I would want school to start at 9 and finish at 4 instead, or finish at 3:50 and cut time out of passing periods,” said sophomore Ainsley McRae, who doesn’t usually get to eat breakfast because she has to hurry out the door. She also said she feels noticeably better when she has more time in the morning than when she wakes up at 6 a.m.

One student at Cleveland, Leija Biberić, is part of an organization called the Multnomah Youth Commission, and serves on the Education Youth Voice subcommittee. They have recently been trying to push the high school start times to 8:45 or later with former commissioner Steve Novick working on it with them. According to Beberić, the recent testifying went well, and “the plan as of now is to attend the district’s FAO (Finance, Audit and Operations) meeting and to try and convince them to sponsor our resolution.”

Special Projects Coordinator at Cleveland, Jan Watt, agrees that it would be beneficial for the students to have later start times, but says that it would be very hard to accomplish, as things like athletics and bus schedules would have to go through some big changes.

On the other hand, some students would rather the start time be moved to earlier.

Laurel Cameron, sophomore, said, “I’m kinda biased because I’m a morning person but in my opinion, if we could start school at seven and get out at 2:15 it would be great. I would rather have more time in the afternoons because I don’t do anything in the mornings. Also, being an athlete, I have practice. So, the later I get out, the later I have practice, and the less I have time to do stuff.”

In the meantime, if you need help getting more sleep, Dr. Brischetto recommends things like sleeping with your phone in another room and/or putting it away at least 30 minutes before bed and doing something to wind down like reading. Even if this doesn’t always increase the hours of sleep you get, it can increase your sleep quality, and it is hoped, better your lifestyle.