Editor’s note: Nick Cates is trying his hand as a Junior Journalist for the Beauregard Daily News and Leesville Daily Leader. Read more about him at the end of this story.
It’s 10:30 at night and the stress is starting to roll in because if I don’t fall asleep soon school well be a drowsy lethargic mess.
The minutes pass and now it feels like I’m fighting my brain trying to force sleep with no prevail. This process was a nightly struggle for me and many other students. There are many problems involved with inadequate sleep, especially for youth.
Students who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight, to not engage in physical activity, suffer from symptoms of depression, drink, smoke, use illicit drugs, and most importantly perform poorly in school.
Sleep struggles are a major problem for youth, physically, socially, and academically this is a major problem, but there is a solution. Make schools start later!
On average Louisiana schools start at seven forty which is almost a full hour behind what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at eight thirty.
There are a lot of factors behind that time recommendation the biggest, and most important is circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is our internal heartbeat clock based around the sun and moon.
The faster the rhythm the more energy, the slower the less energy. In teenagers are rhythm does not slow down until eleven o’clock at night meaning it is biological difficult for teenagers to fall asleep before eleven o’clock.
So students have a hard time sleeping and a lack of sleep hurts are academic performance, surely trying a later start can’t hurt.
DeRidder High School starts at seven forty four every morning and ends at three o four, if DHS started at eight thirty and there school day lasted exactly the same amount of time it would end at four o’clock.
Eight thirty to four is very reasonable both for students and for parents who may have to drop their kids off. That time would also allow after and before school practices to occur at acceptable times. For all extensive purposes a normal school day can occur at an eight thirty to four schedule.
So the question must be asked why do schools start so early? The answer is buses. Yes the big yellow machines of student transportation are the root of the sleep paucity in youth.
Back in the seventies schools started at reasonable times and buses took high, middle, and elementary schools at the same time, but during the energy crisis it became severely cheaper to have one fleet of staggered buses taking students to school.High school went first middle second and elementary last so high school start times were bumped way up.
Today that problem is still around, it is cheaper to have fewer buses run at different times, but the point of school is to educate and it has been proven that better sleep creates better grades for students.
There is expense in everything but surely something as important as are future generations are worth it.