Should School Really Start Later than 8AM?

Sophie Cohen, Staff Writer

As I enter my senior year at Princeton Day School, I feel confident saying that I’ve gained the knowledge necessary to balance the workload of all my PDS classes. The library cubicles are the best place to get any last-minute work done during Community Block, having a free period without friends is a blessing in disguise, using a daily planner to write down assignments is key, and meeting with teachers, even if you aren’t struggling, goes a long way. There is one thing, however, that I still haven’t figured out throughout my time at PDS—how to get enough sleep. After an exhausting day of school, sports practices, extracurricular activities, and a long commute home, the idea of doing four hours of homework while still managing to eat dinner, shower, interact with my family and friends, and get those eight hours of sleep that doctors, teachers, and parents love to encourage, seems pretty unrealistic. This situation begs the question: should school start later than 8:00 AM? 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the biological sleep patterns of adolescents are shifted towards a later time for sleeping and waking up. This means that most teenagers have trouble falling asleep before 11:00 pm and struggle even more to wake up early. For teenagers to function efficiently as possible, we need between eight to ten hours of sleep per night. One study showed that only 15 percent of teens reported that they are sleeping for eight hours on a school night. Not getting a full night of sleep results in numerous consequences, specifically an inhibited ability to learn, listen, concentrate, and solve problems. The resulting stress, anxiety, and poor mental health can make getting a good night’s sleep even harder. Studies show that teens who lack sleep often choose unhealthy food options and are more prone to acne. From the aforementioned evidence, the conclusion is clear we all need and want more sleep in order to perform at our best.

My immediate reaction was that school should absolutely start later; another hour of sleep in the morning seems like the best gift ever. To my surprise, however, my peers’ opinions on this question were mixed. When I asked Seniors Jake Bennett and Chad Sprague how they felt about a later start time, their first response was, “Well duh, less school.” But then, they began to reconsider: a later start time would also mean a later end time, and potentially less breaks throughout the academic day. With this in mind, they came to the conclusion that they would rather have school start earlier so they could leave earlier. Seniors Max Caputo  Skylar Mundenar, on the other hand, said that they would much rather come to school at 9:00 am and leave at 4:00 pm, even though it meant that they would get home later in the day. 

I was ambivalent after hearing these differing responses, because both have their pros and their cons. I then proposed an idea:school would start an hour later but Conference and Collaboration period would become normal block for class at the end of each day. My friends decided that this was the best situation, although they didn’t know if it would really allow them to get more sleep. I sighed, “Well, I guess there’s no solution then.” The table fell quiet and everyone went back to doing their last-minute homework, with a cup of coffee beside them and the periodic hum of yet another yawn.