Essay on Later School Start Times



According to the APA (American Psychological Association), over 52% of teenagers reported large amounts of stress in their daily lives. Unquestionably, a sizable amount of this stress comes from the academic pressure placed upon them. The pressure on high school students is larger than ever, and it is taking a toll on their mental health. It is of paramount importance to make sure these short-term stressors do not become long-term issues. One way to help students destress is through starting schools later in the morning. Late starts are a great way to help students preserve their mental health and also increase their academic performance.

By starting school later in the morning, students will have more time to sleep and start their day properly, resulting in a better academic performance. Due to the current nature of school’s starting times, students are often sluggish to wake up and find themselves struggling to do the basics for their health. A study conducted by the University of Waterloo showed that over 39% of students didn’t eat breakfast more than 3 days a week. In addition to breakfast, sleep has also been proven to be a key factor in academic success. The Student Health Advisory Council at the University of Michigan concluded that “The amount of sleep that a college student gets is one of the strongest predictors of academic success. Sleep plays a key role in helping students fix and consolidate memories, plus prevent decay of memories.  Without sleep, people work harder and don't do as well.” This concept also coincides with high schoolers, who face many of the same challenges. By starting school later, high school students will both be able to sleep better and perform more self-care activities. Others may argue that if later starts were implemented, students would sleep later, offsetting the proposed benefits of having more time in the mornings. On the other hand, among schools that have already added a later start, large success has been shown. Galit Dunietz, a neuroscience researcher at the University of Michigan, stated this about the topic, “It hasn’t happened in a majority of districts, but teens who do have later school start times are sleeping longer and are more alert during the day. Later school start times are reported to have had a positive effect on athletic performance, even when practice times are shorter to accommodate the later end of the school day.” This reinforces the claim that student performance is increased with more sleep, and affirms that later starts are hugely beneficial to students. Undoubtedly, student welfare is vital, and later starts are a great way to help maximize students’ potential.

Later starts lead to more sleep, which consequently would help increase students’ overall mental health and well-being.  By allowing high schoolers to receive more sleep, a variety of benefits including an increase in mental and physical health occur. However, few students are able to receive enough sleep due to the current schedules of schools. According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, “77.0% of U.S. high school students get fewer than 8 hours of sleep on school nights. This is an increase from the 2017 findings, which showed that 75.4% of U.S. high school students get fewer than 8 hours of sleep on school nights.” This proves that not only do high school students not get enough sleep on average, the problem is also getting worse. Furthermore, direct correlations have been found between sleep and mental health. The National Sleep Foundation concluded that “Around 75% of depressed people show symptoms of insomnia, and many people with depression also suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and hypersomnia.” Clearly, sleep is one of the most important aspects of any highschool student’s well-being, and with later starts, students will be able to sleep better. Shifting start times by only one hour later will help mitigate stress for students. Some may believe that instead of a late start, students should manage their time better to get more sleep. However, students simply do not have enough time in their day to sleep that early. A study from New York University found that on average, “About half (48%) of those surveyed reported completing at least three hours of homework a night. Nearly half (49%) of all students reported feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling somewhat stressed.” Not only does this study further display the stresses that students face, but it also shows how much homework a day high school students get. Along with homework, students also have to deal with extracurricular activities, family times, social interaction, and general self-care. Thus, high schoolers are left with no time to sleep earlier. Evidently, a later start to school would alleviate some stress placed upon students, and it would also contribute to better well being for students, and prevent mental health issues. 

By delaying the time schools open by an hour or more, students will be less stressed, score better academically, and have an overall healthier lifestyle. Allowing students to get extra sleep to obtain the recommended hours, makes them more productive, energetic, and helps prevent serious mental health issues such as depression. The extra time helps high-schoolers lead healthier lifestyles and even maximize both their academic and athletic potential in school. Across the country, schools should begin testing out later starts and documenting its success within their district. Nurturing the youth is of utmost importance, and later starts would benefit them tremendously and help them reach their goals.

Works Cited

Bethune, Sophie. “American Psychological Association Survey Shows Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2014, www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/02/teen-stress. 

Communications, NYU Web. “NYU Study Examines Top High School Students' Stress and Coping Mechanisms.” NYU, New York University, 11 Aug. 2015, www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2015/august/nyu-study-examines-top-high-school-students-stress-and-coping-mechanisms.html.

Foley, Logan. “Mental Health and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation, OneCare Media, 28 Jan. 2021, www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health.

Otman, Haley. “Despite Health and Learning Benefits, Half of Parents Against Later School Start Times.” Benefits of Starting School Later: Why School Should Start Later | Michigan Medicine, Regents of the University of Michigan, 18 Aug. 2017, healthblog.uofmhealth.org/lifestyle/despite-health-and-learning-benefits-half-of-parents-against-later-school-start-times.

“Parents and Families.” Successful Students Tend to Sleep More | Parents and Families, The Regents of the University of Michigan, 2021, studentlife.umich.edu/parents/article/successful-students-tend-sleep-more.

“Schools Start Too Early.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 May 2020, www.cdc.gov/sleep/features/schools-start-too-early.html.