Schools, across the nation, often start at incredibly early hours. It’s not uncommon for elementary schools to start as early as 7:15 or 7:30 in the morning. Middle and high schools may start as early as 8:00. Those hours are far from ideal for most students. In fact, an early-morning start term can be incredibly detrimental to overall student learning, performance, and behavior.
1. Students Often Notice a Shift in Their Sleep Schedule in Early Adolescence
As your child nears puberty, their internal clock naturally shifts. The average teenager (who needs at least 9 hours of sleep, and may need as much as 10-12 hours of sleep per night) may have trouble falling asleep before 10. Some teens may even struggle to fall asleep before midnight. If they roll out of bed for school just a few hours later, with mornings starting as early as 6 or 7 in many homes, those children exist in a chronic state of sleep deprivation.
Students with some disabilities, including ADHD, may show an even more significant shift in sleeping patterns at an earlier age. Those children who may start suffering from sleep deprivation in elementary school is forced to maintain a “normal” school schedule.
2. Tired Kids and Teens Are Unable to Learn as Well
Often, due to that delayed circadian rhythm and overall lack of sleep, students simply aren’t able to learn well early in the morning. Students struggle to keep their eyes open and their attention on their assignments. Many teachers struggle with a lack of attention during those early morning hours. Even top performers may struggle to learn when their bodies naturally want to be in bed, still asleep.
Chronic sleep deprivation can also interfere with learning and memory in general. The longer students run on inadequate sleep, the greater the likelihood that they will suffer from learning and memory deficits. Unfortunately, many schools simply do not allow students adequate time to catch up on sleep due to demanding schedules and early-morning start times.
3. Students Who Start Too Early Are More Likely to Engage in Risky Behaviors
Students who roll out of bed for an early start time often find themselves existing in a chronic state of sleep deprivation. That means that they often suffer from significantly impaired judgment–and they may be using a variety of stimulants, including caffeine, to push themselves to stay awake, which may further increase those risky behaviors. Tired students, therefore, are more likely to engage in behaviors like:
- Driving unsafely, especially if they’re trying to get out the door at the last moment for the school
While this is a serious problem for many high school students, even elementary and middle school students may struggle with inadequate sleep on a regular school schedule.
4. Early-Morning Starts Can Increase the Risk of Depression in Students
Students who are able to start their school days later often show lower levels of depression, greater overall happiness, and even better academic performance. Students who are struggling from depression often struggle in school on multiple levels. They may have a harder time engaging with their peers or enjoying the activities and opportunities available to them. Depression can also linger well past adolescence. While teens, in particular, often learn to function on less sleep than they really need, chronic sleep deprivation can add up substantially over time.
Getting a later start to the school day can turn students’ performance around. Many students, particularly those who have struggled academically, find that they are better able to pay attention, focus, and absorb the information presented to them when they are able to start later in the day. Unfortunately, many traditional public schools do not offer students those advantages–and may, in fact, set students up for adulthood still struggling with sleep deprivation and difficulty focusing.
Learn More About the Importance of a Late Morning Start
At The Tenney School, we offer an academic schedule that is designed with students in mind. Contact us today to learn more about the learning opportunities we can provide for your student.