A later start saves smarts

A later start saves smarts

Karen Fox


KarenFoxIt’s 7:58, and students along Day and Loma Vista are running – or at least fast-walking – to try to get to class on time.

Maybe their alarm clock didn’t go off. Maybe they had to finish some homework that morning. Maybe they were attacked by a band of vicious pirates.

Whatever the case may be, the students you see walking the halls after the bell has rung are unquestionably late.

After the little box has been checked in Zangle, the problems don’t just stop there. Yawns in first and second period are altogether commonplace. There are even those unlucky few who pulled an all-nighter to finish a paper and ended up falling asleep in class.

Simply put, far too many students come to school tired and unfocused. Why?

They aren’t getting enough sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep a night. If students are waking up at seven, they would need to go to bed by 10:30.

At Foothill, students usually go to bed when their homework is done – or they wake up early to finish. In other words, only the lucky ones get a full eight hours.

Even if you get the required down time, you’re still not fully equipped to handle your first period, be it art or drama or Calculus BC AP.

Studies have found that teenagers are unprepared to face the day earlier in the morning. The sleep-regulating hormone melatonin is at elevated levels later at night and in the early morning than adults.

Students just aren’t physiologically suited to being awake in the early morning. It makes sense, then, to adopt a later start time.

A later start to the school day has shown to have a correlation with fewer cases of depression, and on average students get more sleep and are better prepared to face their day without their daily cup of coffee.

In schools that have enacted this model, students have generally been pleased with the outcome, even though it means getting out an hour later. In Foothill’s case, it would mean most people would get out at three (widely considered to be the end of the school day) instead of two.

Foothill needs to start an hour later.

Photo: Karen Fox speaks about the importance of getting enough sleep, especially for hardworking students. Photo by Trenton Pham by The Foothill Dragon Press.

What do you think?