Sunday, January 9, 2011

Later start for classes could benefit teens

Laurel Springs Academy

With the school day starting so early, intense homework loads, and sports or after-school jobs, the lives of high school students are so busy that many are awake longer than they should be.

The National Sleep Foundation indicates that lack of sleep among teenagers can result in difficulty focusing, taking in and retaining information, irritability, acne, plus a tendency to overeat.

In order to steer clear of those nasty side effects, teens require between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep per night – depending on the individual. Biologically, teenagers need more sleep than adults until they reach their early 20s.

“Usually I’m more tired than normal, I’m slower, and it’s harder to pay attention,” said Jamie Cotta, a sophomore at Carmel High School, when asked how she functions during first period after getting fewer than eight hours of sleep. A proposal to start the school day later at Carmel High was recently rejected.

Classes at most schools begin between 7 and 8 a.m. The early start can definitely interfere with the amount of sleep high school students “have time” to get each night. Nationally, some high schools have shifted start times to just a little bit later – in the 8 to 9 a.m. range – with positive results.

A later start better suits the needs of the teenagers, who sometimes are unable to fall asleep until late at night, meaning that to get a healthful amount of sleep, they must wake up later. Start times at many high schools don’t allow this.

“I think that kids would be better rested and they’ll retain information better,” said Carolanne Garibay, a sophomore at Salinas High School, where the school day starts at 8 a.m.

Children who are younger, on the other hand, still have that ability to fall asleep early and wake up early. This is why some school districts have switched the start and end times of elementary schools with those of their high schools.

Not all districts are willing to shift hours. Some educators believe that changing the start time to later in the day would interfere with sports and other after-school activities.

This notion has been disproved at several Minnesota high schools, according to research published in The Washington Post. When start times were changed, there was not much of an issue with sports or students’ jobs. With more sleep, the Minnesota students were found to be more alert and suffered fewer cases of depression.

Monterey County Herald, 1/9/11, Page A3.