Less talk, more action: school start times must change


The snooze button: one of modern technology’s greatest inventions.

If only our biological clocks could work like our alarm clocks- we would all be asleep and silent with a push of a button, until it is time to wake up again.

Well, that is sometimes what happens at 6 a.m., when, more than half asleep, we blindly attempt to push the snooze button on our alarm clocks several times, only to be jolted awake by a blaring ring five minutes later.

But really, who can blame us? It is pitch black outside when we wake up. Our bodies natural instinct is to return to hibernation.

Maybe if high school did not start so early, we would have an easier time waking up in the morning.

Research conducted by Stanford University in 1999 concluded that teens may be physically challenged to get up early in the morning.

To keep it simple, this is due to hormonal changes that occur within the body during puberty that affect the sleep-wake cycle, ultimately delaying it. This means more sleep and later bedtimes.

However, the average American teenager gets six and a half hours of sleep on a school night- despite the recommended amount of nine hours and 15 minutes.

Stanford accredits this sleep insufficiency to a number of factors, two of which include early school start time and homework.

Evidence also suggests that many teens sleep through their morning classes, reducing their ability to learn.

In response to this, school districts around the nation have come to change their high school start time to 8 a.m. or later, including 72 of the 95 Virginia counties.

These districts have seen benefits that include better grades and fewer disciplinary problems, and improvement in students’ mental and physical health.

Fairfax County began its own petition to push back school start times in 2004 with the founding of SLEEP, or Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal.

SLEEP’s goal emphasizes that the research is clear: later start times satisfy teen sleep needs while improving teen health, quality of life, and school performance.

However, 10 years after the formation of SLEEP, Fairfax County students still board buses at 5:45 a.m. for a 7:20 a.m. start time.

The “solution?”

According to Stanford, we should “talk to our PTA about changing school start time.”

The real solution?

Quit talking about changing the school start time and change it already.