Sleep habits of pandemic teens suggest benefits of later start times


Photo by Peter Stanton-Shepherd

Junior Alex Neguisse can’t help falling asleep in his second period class, AP Psychology.

With school being completely in person, students have not had an easy transition going back. This raises the question, should we start school later in the day? The answer is yes.

First of all, school starting before 8:30 a.m. can prevent students from getting the proper amount of rest. The CDC recommends teens get at least eight-10 hours of sleep each night. This is difficult to do when most schools start early in the morning, “42 states reported that most (75%-100%) public middle and high schools started before 8:30 a.m.,” according to the CDC.

Coming out of a global pandemic where we were all in virtual school for most of the year, kids aren’t used to getting up and having to be in school. Teens who aren’t getting enough sleep are more likely to suffer from the following: obesity, not engaging in daily physical activity, symptoms of depression, drinking, smoking tobacco and using illicit drugs.

Early mornings have been especially difficult for freshmen and sophomores. Most sophomores missed a majority of their freshmen year due to COVID-19, so it is their first time being in school. As for freshmen, it is already challenging to start at a new school, but to do it coming off a pandemic and virtual school is even harder. Freshman Matthew Zhang said, “Freshman year has been a little rough so far. The earlier start time and the workload has been a very challenging thing to balance. If school were to start a little later, I think it would help me a lot because it would give me a little more time to sleep and be replenished for the next day.”

Another reason that starting school later would be beneficial is test scores. According to Education Next, teens are more likely to score higher on tests when school starts later. “Important memory formation and consultation processes occur overnight, as the brain replays patterns of activity exhibited during learning,” according to Education Next.

Standardized test scores were shown to have gone up by almost four percent in this study. This is a significant amount of improvement, and it’s all just by starting slightly later in the day. Junior Shelby Parsons agrees that school should start later. “School should start closer to 9 a.m. because I think it would allow students to get more sleep, which will set them up for success in the classroom. They will be able to prepare more the night before and sleep better, which will end up seriously benefiting them in the morning.”

It is important for the school to start later in the morning because it positively affects students’ mental well-being, physical well-being and their ability to actually remember what is being taught to them, which in turn allows for better test scores.