An Editorial by Katie Wilber, Staff Writer
West Geauga High School should start later in the morning. Teenagers
at this school aren’t getting enough sleep. If school started later, kids
would be more alert and awake, which would result in an overall better attitude
and better grades.
Studies have shown teenagers require more sleep, an average of 9.5 hours. However, the average teen only gets 7.5 hours per night. 20 percent of teenagers fall asleep during the first two hours of school. Studies have also shown that teens not getting enough sleep are more likely to use drugs and alcohol and experience more depression.
During the teen years, kids' sleep patterns shift. Their biological clocks shift forward, creating a “Forbidden” zone for sleep around 9 or 10pm. This shift is making teenagers prop up, right when they should be feeling sleepy. So there is a medical reason as to why teens stay up late. This cycle shifts back during the adult years. This makes it hard for parents to stay up, right when teens are most alert.
Not enough sleep can affect learning and memory. Tired teens have a hard time paying attention. Even if they do manage to focus, they may forget what they are taught because most memory formation occurs during sleep. Is it just a coincidence that when schools such as the Fayette County, Kentucky and Minneapolis School districts changed their school times to start an hour later the kids’ grades improved? Is it just a coincidence that over 50% of student sick days are due to being tired? Is it just a coincidence that 20% of high school students fall asleep during the first two hours of school? I think not.
A lack of sleep can also affect a teen's already high risk of car accidents. According to the Sleep Foundation, drowsiness and fatigue played a role in 100,000 traffic accidents last year. Drivers 25 and under cause more than half of those accidents. Health experts say that early high school times are largely to blame for teenagers’ perpetual exhaustion.
So why not change West Geauga to a later time? The biggest argument is, “What about the elementary school?”
Actually, younger children do not have the same sleep delays. They also don’t need the same amount of sleep that teens do. Until puberty, kids wake up fresh and energetic to start the day. Just like between 9 and 10 is a teenager’s “prime time,” early in the morning is a child’s “prime time.” Young kids actually learn better in the morning. How many students with younger siblings have a hard time dragging themselves out of bed every morning, just to find their younger siblings already up in front of the TV watching cartoons? If the kids are already up, why not send them to school earlier? If busing is a problem why not switch the elementary and middle/ high school times?
One last reason why high school times should change is the that police reports conclude that between the time teens leave school and parents get off work is when teen crime rates are the highest.
So, why not start West G. later in the morning? The facts show numerous benefits and this is not an uncommon opinion. 80% of people surveyed said that school should not start before 8am. Yes, it would take some work, but the goal of education is to do what is best for the kids.